Local artist has piece selected for U.S. Embassy in Burundi, Africa

Charlie Denison

David Wharton’s painting, “Lady Caroline,” was selected by the US State Department as one of the paintings to display in the U.S. Embassy in Burundi, Africa.
Photo courtesy of David Wharton


For the second time in his professional career, an art piece created by Lewistown’s David Wharton was selected as part of a gallery in an African U.S. Embassy.

“I believe it is an honor to be selected by the U.S. State Department and also have the work purchased and in their permanent collection,” Wharton told the News-Argus Friday.

Wharton’s salmon fly etching, “Lady Caroline,” was purchased by Robert T. Soppelsa, the director/curator of the art gallery inside the U.S. Embassy located in Bujumbura, Burundi, Africa, where “Lady Caroline” now hangs.

“[Soppelsa] first became aware of my work during an exhibition of my art in Washington, D.C. several years ago,” Wharton said. “He was at that time putting an exhibition together on fishing.”

This is also the second time Wharton’s fishing-related art has received such high recognition. In 2008, “Lady Caroline” attracted the attention of Ambassador Donald Teitlebaum, who chose it to be displayed in Ghana’s U.S. Embassy.

“Apparently [Teitlebaum] is a big fisherman and loved my work in that theme,” Wharton said. “He loved it and wanted to have it.”

The piece, “Lady Caroline,” is named after Wharton’s oldest daughter. It’s also a tribute to the art of fishing, which is another reason he did it as an etching on copper.

“Both with fishing and with etching on copper, you have to be extraordinarily precise,” he said. “It’s a difficult process.”

“Lady Caroline” is hanging up in Burundy partly because “fishing and the paraphernalia are common in American and Burundian culture, as both countries have Great Lakes within their borders,” Wharton said.

Wharton’s fishing paintings, according to his bio, “create images that pay tribute to the American West.”

“My art is a personal reflection of the contemporary American West and the values, issues and complexities surrounding the relationship of its inhabitants with nature,” he writes in his bio.

Wharton said he is delighted by this opportunity.

“It’s a wonderful exhibition,” he said, “and I’m happy to represent our country – and Lewistown – with this painting. I’m glad to see her making her rounds.”

Before moving to Lewistown, Wharton earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Oklahoma and a Masters of Fine Arts at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. He’s been working full-time as an artist since 1977.

Wharton adds that, during his entire professional career, he has never made a replica of his work.

“All of my work is one of a kind and there will never be another copy like it,” Wharton said.





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