Drive into Hungry Horse on a nice summer day and you just might see Nick Oberling out in the lawn, painting his latest work.
Oberling, a renowned Glacier National Park landscape painter, has opened a new studio and gallery, Glacier Fine Art, on U.S. Highway 2 with his wife Dr. Betsy Bittman.
Oberling has painted the park for the past 18 years. In 2014 he completed a three-year project where he packed into the wilderness regions of Glacier and painted backcountry scenes plein air. Prior to the project, many of the scenes had never been painted before.
A friend with a mule helped pack in the supplies for the project.
Last year Oberling traveled the country and painted along the way, including landscapes of Florida. He met his wife while working in the John L. Clarke Gallery in East Glacier. She was coming off a hike up Scenic Point and stopped into the gallery about five minutes before it was to close. She bought a couple of his works, the two hit it off and the rest, as they say, is history.
Oberling’s landscapes work in two different dimensions, one is the scene and light on the landscape from a distance, but like a high resolution photograph, Oberling also paints in the details, particularly in the trees, down to the very leaf.
“To me, the trees are important in getting to the soul of the landscape,” he said during an interview last week. “They’re magnificent creatures. They move every time the wind blows.”
Oberling studied art formally at the Art Students League in New York, New York.
His work has been shown throughout the U.S. and he was on the Hockaday Museum of Art board of directors in Kalispell for 11 years.
The couple bought the Dam Canyon Gift Shop next to the Baptist Church in March and began remodeling it in May.
The gallery opened a little more than a week ago. Reception has been good, so far, Oberling said. He used local talent to remodel the place. He hopes to keep the tradition of art alive in Columbia Falls. Sculptor Ace Powell once had a gallery here as did Morris Blake, who carved the iconic “Hungry Horse.”
Oberling is happy to be part of the community.
“Hungry Horse, to me, is where I belong,” he said.