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Casper native reflects on hometown's past and present in new art show

Casper native reflects on hometown's past and present in new art show

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That Casper sunset — in colors unlike any Suzette McIntyre has seen anywhere else — captured the artist’s inspiration once again on Wyoming Boulevard heading into Mills. A brilliant gold and orange glow struck the top of a teepee frame at Fort Caspar, and she made a quick left turn to photograph the scene.

The image now draws viewers into the story of Casper that her photography tells in her “Reflections on Casper, Then & Now” exhibit on display through Nov. 30 at Fort Caspar Museum.

The show spotlights Casper’s historical milestones, landmarks and natural resources through her images paired with historical photographs from Casper College’s Western History Center and other collections.

Months of photography and research went into the show as the Casper native learned more about her hometown and explored the history and features and makes Casper what it is today.

“I just hope when people come out of it,” McIntyre said, “they have a little bit more perspective of where we came from and how it happened, and appreciation for, gosh, the natural things that are there, that have always been there.”

Milestones, landmarks and recreational heritage

In “Reflections on Casper, Then & Now,” McIntyre ties her artistic interpretation of Casper into three angles: “Milestones,” “Landmarks” and “Recreational Heritage.” Her idea for the show grew from an artistic take into the then-and-now approach as she saw profound differences and some of the similarities between Casper today and its past.

“To show that, because for instance, the river, the Platte River has always been,” she said. “The mountain has always been there. The wide open plains have always been there. Antelope have always been there. So those are the similarities. Those are — that’s a natural beauty that really makes Casper what it is. But then the way that it emerged from there, because of the sheep, because of the oil.”

The show begins with McIntyre’s sunset teepee image next to a late 1800s photograph of members of the Shoshone tribe approximately where Cheney Alumni Field stands today, according to the panel. The view shows teepees in front of a few houses that dot the landscape as Casper Mountain rises in the background.

Another image shows Fort Caspar’s recreation of the Guinard Bridge over the North Platte River.

“If the Guinard Bridge wouldn’t have been built, Fort Caspar would not exist, at least not by that name and not in this area,” according to a historical image panel with text.

McIntyre’s photographs and their historical counterparts tell about the railroad, sheep and oil industries that built the town. An 1800s photograph pairs with McIntyre’s scene of ranchers docking sheep.

“Everything is pretty much the same,” McIntyre said. “They’ve got trucks and four-wheelers as opposed to horses and sheep wagons.”

McIntyre, who spent time on the Casper chamber of commerce and beautification boards, experienced the ups and downs of the oil industry in several different kinds of businesses she ran in Casper, while “diversification” became the buzzword amid the mid-1980s crash.

A panel quotes a bumper sticker she recalls from the time: “Will the last one out of Casper please turn off the lights?”

McIntyre could be found at dawn photographing the streets that have been at Casper’s center since the town’s incorporation in 1889. Her pieces and their historical counterparts in her “Landmarks” series of the exhibit span from early Casper buildings that now stand only in photographs and memory to historical landmarks that remain. Her images include Casper’s first church, Natrona County High School and the Rialto Theater on her favorite corner to photograph in Casper.

One then-and-now pair tells the story of the Goose Egg Inn, which closed in 2014 after more than 75 years and a history dating back to the original business in 1879.

“Everybody has a memory going in there — prom, parents’ anniversaries, first dates,” McIntyre said.

Several images celebrate local landscape and wildlife in images with antelope, plains, Casper Mountain or the North Platte River, which evolved from an untamed danger on 1800s trails to “a paradise to explore,” as she relates in her show.

She created a scene from of an antique postcard of the road up Casper Mountain — with a Jeep in place of an old car on a dirt road — to show to show the beauty that remains above a now-wider town.

“I think what I wanted to do is give everyone just new thoughts on what it was before,” she said, “like Casper Mountain at one point didn’t even have a road, and then it was a dirt road and how it was built and all that.”

Falling in love with Casper

McIntyre has studied art throughout her life, pursued a successful photography career in Ohio and now lives in Colorado. Her photography has been nationally recognized for her unique style that combines design and painting techniques, according to information in the show.

The artist spent more time in Casper last summer than she did in Colorado, often photographing just after sunrise and before sunset or even at night in the rain — her favorite times to photograph.

She spent hours finding the perfect corresponding images with specialist Johanna Wickman at the Casper College Western History Center, who also provided a great deal of research for the show, McIntyre said. The project inspired her idea for a book she hopes to feature the past and present of towns across Wyoming, she said.

Troopers Drum & Bugle Corps alumna McIntyre helped offer items for an exhibit for the Troopers’ 60th anniversary at Fort Casper Museum, where curator Michelle Bahe invited her to bring an art show as other local artists have to offer a different approach in highlighting the area’s history.

“I like having her interpretation through her photographs and then having the historical photograph in juxtaposition to the modern-day pictures she took of all the places,” Bahe said. “I love the color she did with the exhibit. For me it brings places to life. Because sometimes with the past, because we only have black and white pictures, we tend to think the past wasn’t as colorful.”

The project deepened McIntyre’s knowledge and appreciation for her hometown.

“And it wasn’t so much a surprise about Casper, the change that I saw, but an enlightenment about Casper,” she said. “After being away from Wyoming and revisiting it in the depth that I did last summer, I was able to look at Casper through a new set of eyes I guess you’d say. Because I moved and I’ve been away 20 years. And as I went through the months studying the history, I realized that Casper is a living, breathing, growing town...”

“It’s so alive right now, and that I love to watch. That’s what changed for me, is I actually fell in love with Casper again.”

Follow arts & culture reporter Elysia Conner on twitter @erconner

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