Missoula artist painted scenes close to home (and the water)

Cory Walsh

Painting outdoors has something in common with fly-fishing to Kristi Hager.

There’s a “single point of concentration, and the rest of the world goes away.”

The Missoula artist’s new series, “Love Letters of Missoula,” on view at the Radius Gallery, depicts scenes around the city where she’s lived since 1997, most often painted on site, and sometimes completed in the studio. She started it during the pandemic, when working outdoors was natural, and she zeroed in on places that are important to her.

Her ambition was to make the paintings “local” in a good way, and she thought of the writer Henry Miller’s book, “How to Paint is to Love Again.” Working on scenes around the city, such as Rattlesnake Creek, the PEAS Farm, or a beach on the Clark Fork River, she said you become more attached through all the concentration you give them.

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“You spend all that time with it, in a way that is very focused,” she said. “And so you deepen your connection to that thing. You begin to see a particular place in a more powerful way.”

Hager is a member

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