An artistic ‘intersection’

When he was just a teenager, Tim Peterson sent away for a correspondence course in taxidermy.

Melanie Gabbert-Gatchell refers to her photography work as “organic” and “all natural.”

Photography by Gabbert-Gatchell and taxidermy work by Peterson is on display through July 30 at the KK Berge gallery in downtown Granite Falls. A reception will be from 7-9 p.m. Thursday. The exhibit, which is titled “Intersection,” is sponsored by the Granite Area Arts Council.

Gabbert-Gatchell grew up on her family farm in rural Granite Falls.

“I’ve always been a sunset taker,” Gabbert-Gatchell said. She said she remembered she just always liked the colors of the sunset and the way things are silhouetted against the light. She now lives on a farm northwest of Granite Falls with her husband and son.

Peterson was also born and raised in the Granite Falls area. He’s also done some season hunting guide work in Wyoming.

“Ever since I was a little kid, I liked the outdoors and hunting,” he said.

He took a taxidermy course through the Northwestern School of Taxidermy at age 14 and learned the basics. He said he saw an ad in an Outdoor Life magazine, and he kept bugging his dad to send in for the course. For a while, he was working at a rock quarry and doing taxidermy on the side. In 2002, he made taxidermy a full-time business with Hawk Creek Taxidermy in Maynard.

“It got to the point I couldn’t do both,” Peterson said. He said that he’s mostly self-taught on taxidermy – he used to go to seminars, bought a lot of books on the subject and asked questions of a fellow taxidermist.

Seven years ago, he started guiding for Little Big Horn Outfitters in Buffalo, Wyo. He said he goes there for about two-and-a-half to three months from late August/early September to November. It’s horseback hunting for elk and moose, he said.

Gabbert-Gatchell said she hasn’t really started showing her photography until a couple of years ago. She’s never taken a photography class. She said she got more interested during an undergrad class she took in college where people talked about how we don’t take photos of people at work.

“It got me thinking about my dad who’s been a farmer all his life,” she said. Gabbert-Gatchell said she followed her father around the farm taking photos. “I decided I wanted to document life on the farm. It made me realize more of what was going on with the family farm, how that, in general, was beautiful itself.”

Gabbert-Gatchell’s undergraduate degree is in literature/creative writing and history, and she also has a master of fine arts in creative writing, with a concentration in poetry. She said she’s also written poetry about farming.

Her photography just naturally progressed, Gabbert-Gatchell said. She’d take photos of farm equipment, fields, latches on buildings.

“Highlight the things that people walk by and don’t notice,” she said. She said that there was once a copper spigot from a faucet that she pulled out of a junk pile to make a coat rack. She had it sitting on a pallet, which brought out the colors, she said. She took the photo, put it on Facebook, and it became a favorite, she said.

“(It was) oh my gosh, that turned out really nice,” she said, noting the details of the wood and the patina on the copper. “It just brings back memories for people as well.”

As a guide for Little Big Horn Outfitters, Peterson would guide hunters for elk, moose, antelope and whitetail deer, and many of those hunters would then contract him to mount their animals. He does all types of taxidermy from life-size big game to birds, rugs, tanning and skull work. He does both domestic and international animals.

“I ship all over the country,” he said. Peterson said he has quite a backlog of projects, and he has a year turnaround.

Peterson said he’s done a few challenging projects. One was a life-size Brahma bull in a bucking position. One of his latest is an 18-foot giraffe.

“It’s still in Africa,” Peterson said about the giraffe. He has about 30 African pieces.

In the KK Berge exhibit, Peterson said he has a kudu, an impala, a blesbok, a life-size duiker and a mule deer among other projects.

Gabbert-Gatchell said she doesn’t use any filters or effects with her photography.

“I don’t want to muddle up all of that,” she said.

“Nature gives us all of the beauty and wonder of shape, color and texture, so why mess with that?” Gabbert-Gatchell said in her artist statement. “If the end result does not express that beauty, then I try to capture it again when the time (and lighting) are just right. I want others to see exactly what I see when taking the photo.”

Other subjects in her photography include flowers, barns, silos, Minnehaha Falls and the footbridge that is in downtown Granite Falls.

“The things that are iconic or we overlook,” she said.