Story on “The Ghost of Billy Fagan”:
“In his youth my grandfather would ride horseback from southeastern Colorado to Denver by way first of the Big Sandy watershed, and then jumping over onto the Cherry Creek drainages. In the early 1860’s the first settlers on Cherry Creek were victim of violent Cheyenne and Arapaho raids on their homesteads. The US Army sent cavalry troops to what was then the Colorado Territory to help with the violence. One Army trooper, Billy Fagan, was seperated from his patrol and went missing. His body was found days later, killed by marauding Indians. His head was misssing from the body and never recovered. As a boy I was told that Billy still rode the high ground on Cherry Creek, warmed by the moonlight, looking for his missing head. I decided to paint Billy, though as a boy ihis story always sent shivers down my spine.” -Michael Ome Untiedt
Story on “Stampede & the Little Rope Horse Went After Them Like He’d Been Eatin’ Corn”:
“Have you ever faced huge seemingly unconquerable problems, only to find an unknown skill, tool, fortitude, helped you deal with the trouble with relative ease? That is what this painting is about, that you are sometimes much much stronger then what you allow yourself to believe!” – Michael Ome Untiedt
Story on “Rider on the Old Granada Trail”:
“Last week a fine rancher gentleman, who wishes to remain annonymous, took me on a tour of his vast ranch, across which the Old Granada-Fort Union Wagon Trail crosses. This trail was a favorite route of the Texas cattleman Charles Goodnight, and the rancher and I visited many beautiful spots in the canyons the trail crossed. In one of these canyons, Wild Bill Hickock, serving as a US Cavalry scout, was holed up with the soldiers during a raging spring blizzard. We stopped at one location that I am convinced was a resting spot for cattle drives, good grass for miles, caprock forming an immense three sided “corral”, and plenty of good spring water. When I am out in these places my mind runs free, and I begin imagining the common moments of the many “travelers”. who passed this way. That is what this painting is about; a binding universality of mankind for all of us; the majority of our lives are spent in the quiet, uneventful common moments, where unburdened with excitement, adversity, or even company, we instead lounge in the moments of ourselves, immersed in a vast cosmos, cleansed by the light of an eternity of stars.” -Michael Ome Untiedt
Story on “Portrait of Charles Goodnight on the Night Herd”:
“Those of you who know me know I am infatuated with a nineteenth century Texas cattleman, Charles Goodnight. Together with his older mentor, Oliver Loving, they founded a cattle business driving Texas cattle north to the Colorado gold camps and Army posts in New Mexico. in the process they established the famous Goodnight-Loving Cattle Trail. Loving died from a wound suffered in New Mexico in 1867, and Goodnight brought his body back to Texas to be buried per Loving’s wishes. Loyalty,courage, persistence, toughness, you can ascribe a lot of character traits to Mr. Goodnight, which is why I like to paint him.” -Michael Ome Untiedt
Story on “Going Home”:
“Bill Linderman, a Red Lodge , Montana World champion rodeo man, was the first president of the RCA, the Rodeo Cowboys Association. After a RCA meeting in Oklahoma City in 1965, Bill caught a plane to return to Red Lodge. The plane crashed at takeoff. Bill survived the crash, but went back into the plane to bring out victims. He was killed in a fiery explosion after several successful rescue trips.
Mathew Woodrow was a retired Smith Mine foreman near Bear Claw, Montana. In 1943 he heard the mine whistle’s declaring an accident. Though retired he went to the mine to offer help based on his years of experience working the mine. A methane explosion had decimated the #3 mine. With no gas masks available Mathew rushed into the mine four times to bring out injured miners. On the fifth attempt Mathew became trapped in a pocket of bad air and died.
On March 26, 1931, the Pleasant Hill school bus was stranded in a snowdrift during a white out blizzard on the Plains of eastern Colorado. As temperatures dropped the driver, Carl Miller, decided to leave the safety of the bus and attempt to find help. Completely lost and disoriented, Carl followed a fence line for miles before freezing to death in the sub zero weather. Five children perished on the bus, including my father’s youngest brother Arlo, and Mr. Miller’s daughter Mary Louise. Carl Miller gave his life in an attempt to save these children’s lives, his frozen hands tattered from following the barb wire fence.
The most deadly mining disaster in US history occurred on June 8, 1917 at the Speculator Mine on Granite Mountain in Butte, Montana. One hundred sixty eight miners perished in this deadly fire and explosion. Conn O’Neill, an Irish born foreman of the adjacent Badger Mine, used his knowledge of the shafts and stopes to rescue miners by underground routes. Twenty times Conn went into the inferno from the Badger carrying twenty men out one at time, saving their lives. On the twenty first trip, Conn was trapped in bad air and died, help unable to reach him in time.
There are many examples of heroic sacrifice in our history, I have simply related four instances of which I have some sort of personal connection. This painting is in honor of all courageous individuals who give their lives to save others. May they each and every one find comfort and peace in an eternal home.” -Michael Ome Untiedt
“My father’s family first homesteaded in southwestern Nebraska after the Civil War. In 1926 they came to Colorado, settling on the state’s eastern prairie, just miles from the Kansas line. Their new Colorado home had a frame farmhouse. Despite this home to live in they still brought their trusty sod plow with them, already having sixty years of use, and pulled it with a team to cut sod to build a chicken house. This was it’s sole purpose, to cut strips of sod that could be trimmed to make “bricks”. My dad had a big white flint arrowhead he found in these sod walls. Their home was marked by a large earthen depression called a buffalo wallow, so the find was not unexpected. His family had many stories of vast buffalo herds on the virgin prairie, and wild exciting hunts across the Kansas and Colorado plains, all these tales spun on the storyboard of buffalo grass sod. When they first settled, Grandma Untiedt planted a mulberry tree. I have a picture of my dad, uncles and Grandpa Bud by that small tree and wallow. The year is 1928. I have another picture taken three years later, only with more people in it and they are all dressed in black, paying respects. Dad’s youngest brother, Arlo, age eight, had frozen to death in a prairie blizzard.
My mother Faye’s parents, Coony and Nellie Brase, had a farm on the buffalo grass prairie above the Arkansas River in Prowers County, Colorado. To the north of the house were two ancient twisted mulberry trees, rumored to have been planted there when John Prowers and his Cheyenne wife Amache ran cattle through that fine country.
Grammy Nellie was quiet and unassuming, probably the kindest person I will ever know. She would speak ill of no one. She always had time for my active imagination, her soft-spoken support probably the biggest reason I became an artist. I miss her more than sunshine. I can still hear her soft kind voice asking me, a small boy, to please go out to the trees and pick a bucket of mulberries, to bake a pie. “And Mike, please be careful and don’t pick the one’s with bird shit on them, they don’t make good pies!”
Grammy Nellie’s mulberry trees are gone, done in by time and crop dusters. She was a big influence on my life.
There is no trace of Dad’s home, except a stunted single mulberry tree by a huge, bone dry buffalo wallow. Fields of waving wheat replaced their lives, which is at best an uncaring forsaken monument. His grave marker is a stone bench under a juniper tree on an endless plain of wind, sun, and bitter dust from the prairies. All my family going back a century and a half, and many friends going back to my youth, rest eternally with the wind through the buffalo grass, in small forgotten grave sites slowly turning back to prairie earth.
One September I made a business run to Taos, New Mexico, delivering paintings to a gallery that handled my work there. My cousin, Tom Summer a commercial woodworker, had a job to do in Dallas. He followed me to Taos on his way to Texas, and we spent a few days dinking around the mountains and canyons of North Central New Mexico. One evening found us on the canyon rim of Taos Creek, close to where it runs into the Rio Grande, with a six-pack of Shiner Beer in hand and a late evening sky in our eyes.
Tom and I come from very similar backgrounds. We were both raised in farm/ranch country and have also spent a lot of time driving nails for a living. The men you grow up with in those kinds of professions tend to be a little close mouthed in talking about the glory of a late evening sky. I recall one evening as a small boy, riding on the tractor with my Granddad as he finished up some cultivating. The sky was prairie big and colorful as a painter’s palette. Granddad sat there for a long time with his hands draped over the steering wheel, watching the sky. The Case tractor burped a slow idle like the rhythm of a bodhran dirge. He was covered in dust and the air smelled of fresh turned earth. After an eternal unmeasured time he turned to me perched on the tractor fender, lightly tapped my knee, nodded towards the West and whispered “ that’s mighty fine”.
Tom’s and my evening on the Taos Gorge was very similar to that Tractor Sundown of long ago. We both pretty much kept our own company, taking in the evening in our own ways. Quiet nods and gentle sips of good south country brew can be all the communication you need to forever etch special moments on the essence of your soul. Too many words might spoil the magic, and that’s one reason why I paint.
In an inescapable meticulous manner, I am spiritually tied to the prairie, people and experiences of my upbringing. I have an affinity for mulberry trees. In some wind blown fashion, I have a link to the Cosmos through the thumbnail sized, lumpy sour/sweet lowly mulberry. I sometimes think I’m still picking berries for that pie, a quiet warning singing in my ears, trying my hardest to avoid the shitty ones.”
copyright 2015 Michael Ome Untiedt
2001 SouthWest Art Magazine, Painting the Landscape, Telling Stories, Feb./01, feature article and cover
2001 Artist’s Magazine, Living Your Landscapes , Dec./01 feature article and cover
2002 Artist’s Sketchbook, Open Book, An American Painter in Ireland, Spring 2002 feature article
2004 Colorado Expressions, Art Scene, Winter 2004, feature article
2006 Aristos, an Online Review of the Arts, January 2006 aristos.org
2006 Cultural Times, An Artist That Almost Didn’t Happen, Nov/06, feature article and cover
2012SouthWest Art Magazine, Governor’s Invitational Art Show, April 2012