Turning chaos into order

By Sarah Gianelli EBS Senior Editor

BIG SKY – A whole corner of Marin Palmer’s small apartment is devoted to art supplies—stacks of little drawers to organize her rock-hounding treasures, and overflowing baskets of paints, crayons and other crafting materials.

The 28 year old came to Big Sky just over five years ago. She was working in a Boyne Resorts’ ski and golf shop outside of Detroit, when she took a trip to Big Sky Resort and was blown away by the area’s beauty, especially iconic Lone Mountain.

“That mountain is such a classic,” Palmer said. “When you learn what mountains look like, that’s the mountain you draw. There are mountains everywhere, but this one is so striking.”

Within a year she relocated to Big Sky and continued to work for Boyne. Today she is the mountain coordinator, an administrative position in which she coordinates between all the mountain departments from lift and fleet maintenance to grooming.

“Pretty much everything that’s on the mountain that isn’t nature,” she said.

For a brief stint Palmer, who was raised in a highly creative environment, thought she would go into graphic design but had an inkling that ultimately it wasn’t for her.

“It was kind of nagging at me the whole time I was taking classes,” she said. “That maybe this isn’t for me. It wouldn’t be sacred anymore if it always meant doing something at someone’s behest … and I didn’t want my soul to shrivel up, like I thought it might.”

Palmer had always painted with acrylics and oil, but began experimenting with crayons in 2015 after seeing a video of melting and manipulating the wax with a hair dryer.

Her process has evolved since then, finding ways to create more depth and have more control over the liquid medium.

She starts by scribbling a loose image to guide her placement and color choice, and then starts shaving the crayons onto the canvas with a palette knife. She holds an industrial heat gun that can reach a temperature of 1,000 F over the canvas and paint- and wax-splattered table, careful not to get too close, but close enough to melt the shavings into speckles.

She adds more wax and trades in the heat gun for a hair dryer and proceeds to blow it around the canvas, the colors merging into visions of the cosmos. Lastly, she paints silhouettes over top—mountains, people—and adds multi-media accents, like metallic leafing for trees. Lately she’s been sealing her paintings with a glossy resin and some of her pieces glow in the dark.

“This is going to be like a reflection of the Milky Way,” she said about the painting before her.

As evidenced by her paintings, Palmer is captivated by the sky, particularly the night sky, and the novelty of replicating it has not yet worn off.

“This painting is kind of how I feel,” she said, pointing to a piece on her wall of a woman silhouetted beneath a star-studded sky. “It’s the sheer smallness you feel in looking at the sky … everything else is minimized. And when the lighting is just so, only for a couple minutes in the morning and evening, the colors in the sky are magical. I love all the different things the sky can do.”

Palmer also makes jewelry which, along with her paintings, she sells under the name Lone Peak Jewels.

She’s wearing one of her pieces—polished rectangles of moss agate strung on a leather cord with accents of brass. She bought a string of these particular stones, but more often she finds them in the natural world.

She pulls out drawer after drawer of tiny, raw stones: calcite from Red Cliff, sapphires from Philipsburg, garnets from Alder Gulch in Virginia City.

She takes out pendants of petrified wood from Cliff Like, and a bowl filled with a melted-down iridescent metal.

The bismuth starts as silvery chunks, but when melted down forms rainbow-hued metallic crystals that, with the change in their molecular structure, look like little imperfect temples that she fishes out of the molten metal and turns into studded earrings.

Making jewelry and painting fulfill Palmer in different ways.

“The jewelry-making is kind of like playing with Legos; you can make so many variations and that’s very stimulating to me,” she said.

Painting, she says, is more like magic.

“You see the mess [this painting] is right now, but to know it’s going to turn into a crazy galaxy, into exactly what I envision … I’m kind of amazed by that. It’s cathartic because it’s a resolution. You start with chaos and you end with order. I guess in a way I’m selling my therapy.”

In addition to having a booth at the Big Sky Farmers Market this summer, Palmer will have a show at Zocalo Coffee House in downtown Bozeman from mid-November to January. Her work can also be found on Etsy and Facebook by searching for Lone Peak Jewels.

The finished painting Palmer began during her interview with EBS. PHOTO BY MARIN PALMER