This article originally appeared on Creators.
Wildlife painter Matt Flint's memories have a profound impact on his work. He remembers exploring the snowy woodlands surrounding his rural Missouri home as a young boy when he came across a pack of coyotes on a ridge in front of him. He watched the animals cross in front of him from a distance and they noticed him, too—probably before he ever did—yet, they weren't bothered by his presence and he wasn't by theirs. In a moment of coexistence, Flint felt an existential connection to nature that, as he grew older, blossomed into love.
"Just being able to see their eyes and be that close to them, that connection stuck with me everywhere I've gone," says Flint, who now lives and paints in Wyoming. "I keep seeking those kinds of encounters and to see nature in its raw, primal state in the way it's supposed to be."
Flint's paintings reflect the way he remembers moments like the one with the pack of coyotes. With the imagery unfocused and the subjects untamed, the wild animals Flint paints evoke a calming beauty and a sense of wondrous mystery. There's a foggy patina to each of Flint's paintings—they look a bit hazy, like his memory recounting the wildlife he encounters—yet vivid when it comes to the details that create a connection between beings, like the eyes of a coyote searing through the frame.
"When we view things in nature, most of the time that's what we get: We get a glimpse. We get a few seconds," Flint says of his work, which often features animals like horses or wolves barely in focus, while the environment around them is scratched or faded away. "I don't spend a lot of time setting things in an environment. It's a completely abstracted or non-objective environment. I want that to be more about the connection between the animal and the viewer."
That connection has always been meaningful to Flint, especially when he realized how endangered the environment and its inhabitants are at the hands of human development. When he was about 10 years old, Flint remembers feeling angry and confused when woodlands and farmlands around his home began being destroyed and replaced with housing developments.
"It was sort of like a suburban sprawl," he remembers. "That really hit me when I saw the bulldozers come in and start to knock down the trees. It really bothered me that something I was familiar with and seemed complete could be leveled and turned into something else. It didn't take much time."
Now, Flint says he aims to document his natural surroundings, reminding viewers that there's beauty in the environment and not only in the allure of his, or someone else's, brush strokes replicating the scenery. If human beings aren't conscious of the natural world around them, he says, then it could disappear as quickly as the woodland surrounding his childhood home.
"As a species, we keep forgetting that everything that we use or consume comes from this environment and we're not the only inhabitants of it," Flint says. "Some of that has to be around for us to exist."
Matt Flint's work is on view at Visions West Contemporary in Livingston, MT from June 23 - July 20. You can see more of his work here.
All year, we're highlighting 50 States of Art projects around the United States. This month, we're covering Wyoming, West Virginia, Kentucky, Montana, and Arkansas. To learn more, click here.
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