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The Gearboat Chronicles

River art

Ever try to build your own picture frame? It’s a pain in the don’t-even-ask. The worst part is trying to cut the glass to fit. For that, I need a glasscutter, blood donor and ambulance standing by. Like every challenging task, I’ve learned over time that the best way to go about it is ignoring the whole thing. So I’ve had a pile of to-be-framed treasures carefully piled here and there, until the other day when I came across a stack of old broken plexiglass I’d also set aside to be ignored. But wait. Plexiglass is easy to cut. It kind of stinks when you run it through the table saw, but doesn’t make you bleed. Perfect. Let the framing begin.

First up was a watercolor by Silje Christoffersen, Winding Waters guide and all-around superstar. The scene is Imnaha canyon country, which you’ve seen from the air if you’ve done our Hells Canyon whitewater rafting trip where we fly you out from Dug Bar, just above the mouth of the Imnaha on the Snake River. A closeup of Silje’s work is below, but check out this artful positioning—if I do say so myself—below an impressive deer skull also from the Imnaha River. My dog Bula found it years ago when I was fishing and she was scouting around on the bank. Good girl, Boo. Good girl.



Nicely done, Silje. Penny has more of Sil-jay’s artwork in the Boathouse Shop so take a look next time you’re in. Next up in the river art gallery is a painting by Tom Kearns, family amigo of the Christoffersens and one of my favorite river floating buddies over the years. Tom will go ahead on the gearboat, sit down in a pretty place—which is pretty much anywhere in the canyon—and focus in on a slice of wilderness. If the framing on this looks better than the others, that’s because Paul did it.


Hey, hey, hey . . . what’s this, now? A bunch of takes on the same bend in the river? I liked this so much from the first time I saw it that I’m afraid I put the full court press on the artist, Gretchen Williams, for ownership and she gracefully let me pry it out of her hands after a wrestling match. Gretchen created this during an art day at Skeleton Creek on the lower Salmon when we did a layover day. Good times. Layovers are always fun but the outdoor art studio she set up really put that one over the top.


 Next we have sort of an avant-garde sculpture. Really it’s just a piece of driftwood, but with some super-funky swirly action in there that made me pack this thing down the river and home with me. I applied some varnish and it now resides atop the vintage laptop that was a gift from Hilary Valentine, our Winding Waters river chef. Thanks, darlin’.


 This last one here doesn’t have a river connection, but it does serve as a directional sign for the groover in my cabin. The picture of the dude smiling and pointing is off some old house insulation that I tore out in the early days of renovating my shanty. I was so impressed with the 50s-looking drawing that I cut this chunk out and always planned to stick it on the wall for when guests ask where the bathroom is. He’s finally behind plexiglass and busy pointing toward the groove. Keep up the good work, 50s insulation guy.


You’ve got a shot at taking home some one-of-a-kind functional art by attending the Frostbite Film Fest next week. Paul Arentsen is building another ski sculpture this year and it’ll be auctioned off by amateur auctioneer me. Paul’s furniture made from retired skis adds 10% to the value of any home when displayed on the front porch—so it’s a wise investment on top of being visually appealing and comfy to kick back in. The Frostbite fundraiser is Thursday, Feb. 12 from 6 to 9pm at the OK Theater in Enterprise, so we’ll see you there. And please just shout out really large bids when the auction thing starts. I’m a little reluctant to be doing the auctioning. Craig Nichols set the bar awfully high for that. Here’s a picture of him in action at a previous Frostbite.

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Again, just shout out really big bids when the auctioning starts. That’d be a big help. Not just for me, but all the winter sports outfits the Frostbite helps fund.

OK, go dust your own art collections and we’ll see you on the river.