Rachel Pohl wields acrylic paint to reconsider the feeling a person gets from the mountains. In her fifth year at Montana State, Pohl is regarded by some to be one of the most talented up-and-coming artists in the West.
The Bozeman native is elusive, travelling from Arizona to Alaska, Switzerland to California, while still finding the time to shred powder at Bridger Bowl. Drawing from experiences in the outdoors, Pohl’s signature style incorporates bold colors to share a unique vision of the world.
“I reference reality while giving it a heightened, elated ‘flow-state’ feeling as I paint,” Pohl expressed, “Right now, I hardly make any money. But that’s not the point.”
The powerful contrast between the hot and cold, sharp and dull has one thing that viewers adore: impact. Pohl’s work can be found on vans, posters, Bridger Bowl t-shirts and skis. Prints are also available on her website, rachelpohlart.com.
“You don’t have to go to school for art,” Pohl reflects, “but teachers here [at MSU] made me grow in ways would not have otherwise.” Despite her appreciation of her academic career it is hard to take many classes while adventuring and working on various projects throughout the year.
“The sense of the community the mountaineering culture has is amazing,” Pohl observed, “That’s why I don’t charge a lot of money for my work, so people can afford my paintings and enjoy them in their home.”
Rachel Pohl also finds time to volunteer for the Big Sky Youth Empowerment which allows at-risk youth the opportunity to go to Big Sky free of charge. On the bus ride up, Pohl painted a scene of the surrounding mountains, demonstrating her commitment to her craft and the kids involved in the program.
Meeting new people through work, making connections and sharing the “mountain experience” are all things Pohl loves about MSU and the Bozeman community. The many photographers, painters and ski bums make the Gallatin Valley a paradise for any adventure artist. Pohl also frequents Jackson, Salt Lake City and Bellingham.
Currently, Pohl is collaborating on an IMAX film that showcases national parks and other areas in the West. Working with Conrad Anker and Max Lowe, the team hopes to pass on knowledge about conservation and sustainable climbing practices. “We have spent 16 hour days filming,” she said, “which really gives me time to think about painting and the emotions I hope to convey.”
After touring the Desert Southwest, with such destinations as Grand Canyon, Zion and Arches, the team is resuming work this Monday in Yellowstone and Hyalite. These trips give Pohl an adrenaline rush which she uses as inspiration for her painting. “Most people don’t climb 20,000 foot peaks or up a sheer face of granite. Painting is my safest hobby.”
Pohl is passionate and excited about life. After graduation in 2015 with a degree in studio arts and a minor in art history, she is taking off for “Japan-uary” to learn about wood block printing and skiing in the Land of the Rising Sun. With additional travel plans to Peru, Indonesia and Iceland it is hard to say what the future holds for the intrepid, audacious Rachel Pohl.