Uplifting & Beautiful, Nancy Cawdrey’s Vision of the West

by RENEE PATRICK Cascade A&E Editor

nancySilk painting began in China thousands of years ago with Chinese calligraphy characters carefully brushed onto silk scrolls, and over time came to be the preferred medium to depict forms of nature as well as religious and mythological characters. While artist Nancy Dunlop Cawdrey often keeps to the tradition of painting scenes from nature on her silk creations, it’s the spontaneity and brilliance of color that attracts her to the art.

“Silk dye is very transparent,” Cawdrey explained. “I love to get an image of wildlife with the sky reflecting in the water, [as in the cover painting, Boo!]. It is challenging and fun.”

This is the first year Cawdrey will be participating in the Art of the West show, but her Western themed artwork is well known throughout the country. She is represented in galleries throughout her home state of Montana, and her work is regularly included in invitational art shows across the West.

“We felt that Nancy Cawdrey’s painting, with its captivating colors and relevant subject matter, would stand out on the newsstands. It just makes a great magazine cover,” commented John Furgurson of the High Desert Museum.

“I have been part of other museum shows, they play an important roll in the community,” Cawdrey said. “It’s a wonderful place to gather and look at the history of [our communities] and support artists. I’m honored to be asked to do it.”

SweetCheeksCawdrey and her husband chose to live at the edge of Montana’s vast wilderness over 30 years ago while they ran a wilderness boarding school. It was there she was able to cultivate her appreciation of silence and become open to nature’s influence.

“There is a serenity and pattern in nature that is wonderful to pay attention to and take in,” she said. “I love watching animals in nature; we have that in abundance.”  The Cawdreys live on a slough where blue herons, eagles, sand hill cranes, killdeer and other animals regularly visit. “It is very important [to me to] draw attention to nature as an artist, this is a beautiful place.”

Boo! was devised from a series of photographs of bears in Alaska taken by Cawdrey’s friend. “I think bears are awesome subject matter,” she said. “I like [this painting’s] humor and color. There is a sense of surprise…bears do love the water. I like the whole theme of wildlife in water.”

In addition to the inspiration she finds in the great wide open, Cawdrey attributes her design sense to the extensive travel her family enjoyed due to her father’s position with different U.S. Embassies around the world. “I think most artists love the patterns of things; living all those places helped me to think outside the box.”

Cawdrey’s world view is focused on positivity, and her art reflects that temperament, “I do try to focus on that which is uplifting and beautiful. I’m not a tortured artist. I’m fairly impervious to negativity…Be kind to each other and go forward.”

Nancy Cawdrey Studios & Gallery, 2230 Riverside Road, Bigfork, Montana 59911, 406-755-2727,


Art of the West Show Opens at the High Desert Museum
Works to be Auctioned at High Desert Rendezvous Gala August 17

The annual Art of the West Show at the High Desert Museum will feature 21 paintings from western artists, on display from August 3 – 17 in the Brooks Gallery.

“Each year we strive to bring a compelling mix of new and local artists to the Art of the West Show,” said Museum President Janeanne Upp. “The selection this year will appeal to both traditional and contemporary collectors. I hope everyone will get a chance to come to the Museum and view all the wonderful work.”

The juried show focuses on work inspired by the Western landscape, including Nancy Cawdrey’s cover artwork, Boo!, and will be available for silent bid from August 2 – 17. All of the proceeds from the sale of art support the Museum’s education programs. 
Can’t make it to the show? View the art online at To bid, call 541-382-4754, or

Rendezvous Harnesses the Spirit of the West
Don your duster and denims or rhinestones and ropers for a rip-roarin’ Rendezvous!

On August 17 the High Desert Museum will be transformed into a boot-stomping party for the High Desert Rendezvous. The 24th annual event is the main fundraiser for the Museum’s educational programs.

“Given the long-standing tradition of the event, and the improving economy, we expect to raise $200,000 this year,” said Museum President Janeanne Upp. The educational programming offered by the museum ranges from discovery classes and tours that take school children through the historical and natural environment of the area, to learning expeditions which offer free materials for a focused course of exploration during museum visits. Eighty-six percent of the museum’s funding goes towards education.
The Gala will be decked out with all the Western trimmings: a wild west cowboy supper, wildlife encounters and living history personalities as well as a hosted bar, live music and a lively dance floor.

Guests will bid on live and silent auction items for Western art, jewelry and fabulous adventures and vacations created specially for the Rendezvous.

The event starts at 5:30pm, tickets are $350 per couple (includes a family membership) and $200 for one person (includes an individual membership), museum members: $150 per person. Sponsorship packages start at $2,000. 541-382-4754, ext. 365,,

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