NELTJE

Abstract expressionist painter, artist & author

Neltje and Bandit on Neltje's ranch in the Bighorn Mountains.

Neltje and Bandit on Neltje's ranch in the Bighorn Mountains.

 
I paint the moment, I think the moment, I feel the moment. You have this second, then BOOM! It’s gone. The wind comes up, and your hat flies off. You drop your glass of champagne. It’s just a moment.
— Neltje
 
Neltje on her ranch in Banner, Wyoming.

Neltje on her ranch in Banner, Wyoming.

 
 

Listen to Neltje's Story.

 

The artist Neltje overcame abuse and alcoholism to realize her strength as an abstract expressionist painter and author. As the former proprietor of the historic Sheridan Inn, she saved the establishment from destruction and oversaw its operation for years before becoming a full-time artist. In her 80’s, Neltje has lived in Wyoming for over 50 years now, and is unafraid to live out loud. She paints 10x30 foot abstract expressionist canvases and recently released her memoir, North of Crazy. She founded an artist residency program on her ranch in Banner, Wyoming (Jentel Arts), as well as Turned Antiques - a hidden gem of an antique store with collections from around the world and Neltje’s travels. In addition to her painting and artistry, Neltje is a loyal friend, mother and grandmother, and has a brigade of furry friends including Carrie, Bandit, Tara, Gypsy, Lilly and Tara. 

During our interview, Neltje and I talk about being your own hero, her memoir and 10x30' canvases, and how she found her voice through painting.

 
Neltje - Women in Wyoming - Triptych Colorful Paintings Portrait
Neltje - Women in Wyoming - Sitting Coffee Black and White Portrait
 
 
Well color, let’s start with color. I don’t know what my favorite color is. Probably red...because it’s outrageous. It demands courage, strength, and an unwillingness to be put down.
— Abstract Expressionist Painter, Artist & Author, Neltje
 
 
Neltje - Women in Wyoming - Serious Portrait White Background
 
 
I would say that I’m a painter of the moment. I think we all are all painters of the moment. We are creators of the moment.
— Neltje
 
Neltje at home in Banner, Wyoming.

Neltje at home in Banner, Wyoming.


 

 

MARILYN KITE

Wyoming's first female Supreme Court Justice & Chief Justice

Wyomings first female Supreme Court Justice, Marilyn Kite, with her buckskin, Cash.

Wyomings first female Supreme Court Justice, Marilyn Kite, with her buckskin, Cash.

 
 
You have to have the trust and confidence of the public in order for the courts to do their job. For there to be trust and confidence of all the public, you need to have more women represented on the bench.
— Former Wyoming Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Kite
 
 
 

Listen to Marilyn's Story.

In 2000, Marilyn Kite became the first woman to be appointed to Wyoming’s highest court as a Supreme Court Justice, and later as Wyoming’s first female Chief Justice. During her time on the bench, she was tasked with re-writing the state's school finance case and helped to establish an access to justice fund for Wyoming. Marilyn is thoroughly a Wyoming woman - she was born in Laramie, attended the University of Wyoming, stayed in Wyoming after graduation where she’d be an influential force in developing the Wyoming branch of Holland & Hart (now a nationwide law firm). Marilyn is an accomplished horsewoman and was one of the "founding mothers" of the first women's antelope hunt in the country to benefit the Wyoming Women's Foundation.

During our interview, I talk with Marilyn about how she came to serve in Wyoming’s Supreme court, why she felt a woman should have occupied that position years earlier, and how more women can follow in her footsteps.

 
 
Wyoming's first female Supreme Court Justice and first female Chief Justice, Marilyn Kite.

Wyoming's first female Supreme Court Justice and first female Chief Justice, Marilyn Kite.

 
 
 
I was proud to be the first, but the fact of the matter is, we were behind a lot of other states.
— Justice Marilyn Kite
 
 
Marilyn Kite - Women in Wyoming - Black and White Cash Candid Portrait
 
 
You’re never limited in what you can get out there and do.
— Former Wyoming Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Kite
 
 
Wyoming Supreme Court Justice & Former Chief Justice, Marilyn Kite.

Wyoming Supreme Court Justice & Former Chief Justice, Marilyn Kite.

 

 

 

AFFIE ELLIS

Wyoming's first Navajo and Native American State Senator

Wyoming's first Navajo and Native American State Senator, Affie Ellis in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Her squash blossom necklace was made by her grandfather, Tom Burnside.

Wyoming's first Navajo and Native American State Senator, Affie Ellis in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Her squash blossom necklace was made by her grandfather, Tom Burnside.

 
 
These moments matter, because when you’re taking a vote, and when you’re thinking about how decisions affect people, you remember standing on their doorstep. I feel strongly about making that connection with folks.
— Wyoming State Senator Affie Ellis on the campaign process
 
 
 

Listen to Affie's Story. 

 
 

In January 2017, Affie Ellis served her first term as a Wyoming State Senator, becoming the first Navajo and first Native American person to ever serve in the Wyoming State Senate. Affie was born to a working class family in Jackson, and spent weekends cleaning motel rooms with her mother, Lenore. Affie “wouldn’t trade that experience for anything,” because it taught her life-long lessons of perseverance, hard work, wanting to better herself, and in turn, giving back to others.

Affie’s adamant that her rise to public office is a job, not her identity, and she is committed to doing the best work possible for Wyoming. A working mom of three in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Affie’s story of success is one of self-starting and stepping up.

 
 
Affie's story of success is one of self-starting and stepping up.

Affie's story of success is one of self-starting and stepping up.

 
 
 
I think there are talented people all across the state, but unless and until there’s an open seat, they don’t even think about running. I certainly hope I never start thinking that way, because people can and they will rise up.
— Wyoming State Senator Affie Ellis
 
 
Affie with her parents, Jim & Lenore Burnside, at her dad's welding shop   in Jackson, Wyoming.

Affie with her parents, Jim & Lenore Burnside, at her dad's welding shop in Jackson, Wyoming.

 
 
When I ran for the legislature, I knew that it would be a journey of self-growth and becoming the person you really want to be. Which is someone who understands the severity of the decisions we make, respects the chamber we serve in, and knows that it’s greater than and will long outlast me and my time on this earth.
— Wyoming State Senator Affie Ellis
 
Wyoming State Senator Affie Ellis.

Wyoming State Senator Affie Ellis.

 
 

 

NIMI & NINA MCCONIGLEY

 This two-part profile features Nimi McConigley - the first woman of color in the United States to run a television news station and the first Indian-born person in the United States to be elected to state government - as well as her daughter, Nina McConigley - the award-winning author of Cowboys and East Indians

Nina McConigley (left) and her mother, Nimi McConigley (right)

Nina McConigley (left) and her mother, Nimi McConigley (right)

Journalist & Politician, Nimi McConigley - the first woman of color to run a TV news station and the first Indian-born person in the country to be elected to state government in Casper, Wyoming.

Journalist & Politician, Nimi McConigley - the first woman of color to run a TV news station and the first Indian-born person in the country to be elected to state government in Casper, Wyoming.

 
 
You can do it! You just have to have courage, and trust and believe in yourself, and you have to accept defeat. And not let that stop you. Keep trying!
— Nimi McConigley
 
 
 
 

Listen to Nimi's Story. 

 

Nimi’s storied life began in Madras, India where she became an established journalist- working for India’s first and to-date, only female Prime Minister, Indira Ghandi. She attended Columbia School of Journalism, worked at WGBH- the PBS station in Boston, then ran her own station in Delhi. There, she met her husband, Pat and relocated because of Pat’s work to Casper, Wyoming where they've lived for the last 40 years.

In Casper, Nimi became the first woman of color to run a television news station, and later, ran for office and became the first Indian-born person in the entire US to serve in state government. Known as a community-minded person for years before running for office, Nimi helped start the hospice program in Casper as well as a weekly foreign film club. Her story is a true tale of courage, being yourself and embracing difference as a strength.  

 
 
Nimi McConigley- a former Wyoming legislator born in Madras, India who has called Casper, Wyoming home for the last 40 years.

Nimi McConigley- a former Wyoming legislator born in Madras, India who has called Casper, Wyoming home for the last 40 years.

 
 
When I was sworn into the legislature, my mind flashed back...did I ever think I’d end up in the cowboy country? Here I am in the Wyoming state legislature, being sworn in as a legislator. Who would have ever thought this little girl in India would have ever ended up here.
 
 
Nimi wearing one of her many sari's, a traditional Indian dress. This design is known as a 'temple' sari, for the peaks which resemble a temple.

Nimi wearing one of her many sari's, a traditional Indian dress. This design is known as a 'temple' sari, for the peaks which resemble a temple.

 
 
 
You’ve got to believe in yourself. When your validation comes from inside you, and you validate yourself, that can’t be taken away by anyone.
— Nimi McConigley
 
 
 
 
 

Listen to Nina's Story. 

Nina McConigley is an accomplished author whose work tells a less common story of Wyoming- one of identity, race and the immigrant experience in the rural West. Nina didn't always know that she wanted to become a writer, though. It took working an insurance job after college for Nina to realize she needed to pursue her true interests. She signed up for her first creative writing class and never looked back. Nina's first book, Cowboys and East Indians, won the prestigious Pen Open Book Award in 2014, as well as the High Plains Book award and made Oprah’s List. Nina's passionate about sharing a different perspective of Wyoming with her students as well- she's a professor at the University of Wyoming in the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers and teaches around the country. Nina tells me what it was like growing up in Wyoming as a woman of color, her creative process and her upcoming novel. 

Award-winning author and professor, Nina McConigley.

Award-winning author and professor, Nina McConigley.

 
 
I feel it’s my responsibility to my students who come in from all over Wyoming to show that there are people of color that grew up here, we stayed here, and we love it here.
— Nina McConigley
 
 
Nina (left) with her mother, Nimi (right) at Nimi's home in Casper, Wyoming.

Nina (left) with her mother, Nimi (right) at Nimi's home in Casper, Wyoming.

 
 
I think when I sit down to write it’s that I want to tell an interesting story. It’s what’s in your subconscious. It just seeps onto the page.
— Nina McConigley
 
 
Nina and Nimi McConigley.

Nina and Nimi McConigley.

 
 

 

CLARENE LAW

Self-made business mogul & community leader

Clarene Law cruising around Jackson in her 1976 Cadillac.

Clarene Law cruising around Jackson in her 1976 Cadillac.

 
 
The only way you do things, you don’t do things alone ... There is no such word as just me - I. It is all of us. It’d take everybody in my life to make what I am today.
— Clarene Law
 
 
Clarene Law is known equally for her success in business, kindness and service towards others.

Clarene Law is known equally for her success in business, kindness and service towards others.

 
 
 

Listen to Clarene's Story.

 
 

Clarene grew up in a blue-collar family and became a self-made millionaire through her hotel and business endeavors. Clarene doesn’t think of herself that way, though. In her mind, her greatest success is her network of relationships with others, because it’s their support that got her to where she is today. Clarene is well-known in her community and around the state for her kindness and commitment to helping people, as well as for her roles in public service. She served 14 years in state legislature, as well as on numerous boards and commissions.

Clarene can still can be found most days working at the Antler - her flagship motel, which she purchased 55 years ago. At 84 years old, why does she go to work everyday? “Because it needs done.”

 
 
Clarene working at her flagship motel, The Antler, in Jackson, Wyoming.

Clarene working at her flagship motel, The Antler, in Jackson, Wyoming.

 
 
I had the ability, if I had any ability, of bringing people together so that we could build - not by pushing others down, but by standing on each others’ shoulders.
— Clarene Law
 
 
At 84 years old, most days you'll find Clarene at work in her office at the Antler Motel.

At 84 years old, most days you'll find Clarene at work in her office at the Antler Motel.

 
 
You have to believe in yourself, and you have to be willing to take the advice of others, and you have to find an awfully good banker.
— Clarene Law's #1 piece of advice for a successful business and happy, contented life
 
 
Businesswoman and community icon, Clarene Law.

Businesswoman and community icon, Clarene Law.