Rachel Warner, or Rusti to her friends, is a fifth-generation Montanan. Family heritage has been an important influence in her life. She says, “My Grandma and Grandpa raised cattle, my Mom, KC, was an engineer on the railroad and my Uncle is a logger.” Warner lives on her grandparents’ ranch property in Columbia Falls, Montana, where she recently built a large barn studio. She has been drawing and painting since childhood, and, of her life in art she exclaims, “The old saying is, ‘When did you become an artist?’ I didn’t become an artist, I just didn’t quit!” Early years living in Havre, Montana exposed her to Native American culture. The influence on her art has been profound.
One of the greatest impacts on her life has been her decades-long relationship with one of Montana’s most famous artists, Russell Chatham. He was a friend of her mother’s when she was working for the railroad in Livingston, Montana. His support over the years has guided her growth as an artist. Their shared tonalist painting styles often encourage comparison, although Warner pushes back at the use of the word tonalism. “The more proper phrase would be colorist. Basically, the tonalist painters in American Art history, at least that I look at, were much more concerned with capturing the mood than anything else. She continues, “How one does that is by playing around with different palette opportunities. It really is about something ethereal that you might see at dusk, something unusual that you might catch when there is a lot of humidity in the air. Yes, it is very romantic for me. I’m after a fantasy; it’s the magic I chase as a painter.”
Painting in Glacier National Park puts things in perspective for her, “We can come out here and remember our smallness. It gets us aligned and just visually, from an aesthetic point of view, it’s more to work with than any artist could ever handle.”
Warner finds inspiration from the great oil colorists throughout American and European painting history. Of these, she specifically cites George Inness, Odilon Redon, Antonio Mancini, James A. M. Whistler, Jean-Baptiste, Camille Corot, Camille Pissarro, Claude Monet, J.M.W. Turner and above all, Russell Chatham.
The above is an excerpt from the A Timeless Legacy – Women Artists of Glacier National Park book published by the Hockaday Museum of Art, Copyright 2015.