This Wild Playground

"This Wild Playground", mixed media on canvas, 4' x 4', $3600, ©Kellie Day
"This Wild Playground", mixed media on canvas, 4' x 4', $3600, ©Kellie Day

“This Wild Playground”, mixed media on canvas, 4′ x 4′, $3600

The town of Ridgway, Colorado is run by creative, forward-thinking people who are highly supportive of the arts. They recently asked me to write about why I came to Ridgway, why I love this place so much. Here is my story…

I live in a wild playground. A valley full of 12-14,000 foot mountains sculpted by glaciers that left behind a red river.

This red river – the Uncompahgre – tumbles from Red Mountains that form the crown of our existence in Ouray county. The leftover glacial moraines extend out around us, like arms, holding our valley.

Our valley is green, rolling pinyon juniper country – high desert they call it. It hosts glorious ranches too beautiful for words – like something out of a painting.

In every direction there is so much beauty my heart bursts, swells, dances, sings, and sometimes cries. This is an intense place. Not like the midwest industrial belt I came from.

I came to Ridgway via Arizona, where I hiked red rock canyons every day as a Wilderness Ranger. There I climbed high above these canyons on sandstone walls, and skinny dipped in remote pools of crystal clear water that come from snow melt far away.

I came to love climbing these rock walls and I wanted more. I wanted to climb everything – rock, ice, and mostly mountains. A local climbing partner suggested we go ice climbing in Ouray, Colorado, Ridgway’s neighbor. I said Yes.

Long ago, that red river above Ouray had been “tamed” and put into a pipe to bring water to the town. But man cannot tame water and this pipe leaked. It leaked red and yellow drips into the canyon below. And in the winter these drips froze into hundred foot icicles, and monkeys like me and my friends came and climbed them. We climbed long, frozen, magnificent waterfalls that fell down the mountainsides above Ridgway, Ouray and Silverton, Colorado.

By this time I lived in Flagstaff, Arizona and was coming to Ridgway on the weekends to climb. I was very hungry for adventure, and there were not enough mountains in Arizona, so I took an internship in a tiny town called McCarthy, Alaska, at the convergence of two glaciers. Here I fell in love. And guess where this guy lived? Ridgway, Colorado.

Because there weren’t enough mountains in Arizona, because of the ice climbing in Ouray, because I feel in love, I came to this wild playground. Here, everything insane in this world falls away when I place my feet on its trails and walk through its forests.

I came to Ridgway Colorado because I said Yes.

All of these things I speak of, all of these beauties that move me, are so great, they are too large to hold. They leak out into paintings. My paintings are simply all of this beauty moving through me – my love of this land, and of feeling alive in the great outdoors.

My paintings hold layers and layers of collaged papers, paint and words from things I find beautiful. They hold torn pages from poets and writers who are able to put into words what we are all feeling: that we are MOVED. That what we really want, is to say YES to life. And that’s what I paint!

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