FEATURE - "Lori Nicholas: A Masterpiece of Color"

BOTHWELL – By Ellen Cook – August 25, 2020

It has been said the best lives are those lived in color. Lori Evan Nicholas, long time resident of Bothwell, was the epitome of that saying.

This wife, mother, grandmother, neighbor, community volunteer and talented western artist passed away November 16, 2019, after a three-month battle with lung cancer, but in her nearly 68 years, this quiet but unquestionably gifted dynamo etched many lives with indelible memories, much as she did with her beautiful brush strokes.

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Lori Nicholas - Courtesy photo

This year’s Box Elder County Fair theme, “Where Generations Share the Magic,” was chosen in her honor. The fairbook cover, which sadly, never materialized, was to have been a painting Lori put together many years ago and one that still hangs at the fairgrounds. It depicts several well-known stalwarts of the fair doing what they do best, helping bolster the efforts of the county youth as they sell their livestock projects.

Although the painting represents the auction side of the annual county fair, it also represents just what Lori spent her life doing, bringing happiness and joy to others and encouraging them to do and be the best they can.

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This image is subject to copyright laws and regulations. "The Soft Sell," a painting by Lori Nicholas - Courtesy photo

Her mark on this county and its fair are undeniable. As a Fine Arts director for many years, she could always be found offering applause and encouragement to the young artistic hopefuls who brought in their creations.

As a participant herself, her artwork often brought “oohs” and “aahs” from fair goers and garnered her dozens of ribbons and multiple honors. Her knowledge of the cowboy way of life poured from those pieces and struck a familiar chord with their viewers, often earning her what she considered the highest of praise, the People’s Choice award.

In her work those fans saw something of themselves or at least caught a glimpse of their dreams - a lone rider crossing a stream, an old cowhand recalling his lost love, a pint-sized roper donning a man-sized sombrero. Her subjects looked natural in their settings, a fact not lost to onlookers, many who lived everyday what she captured so eloquently on canvas.

Her daughter, Sheena Nicholas Hansen, said she remembers sitting at the foot of her mother’s easel in Promontory as a child, watching not only the artist whose professional works would later grace walls around the world, but also the woman who never lost her love for the place that held her heart, Box Elder County.

“This was her home,” Sheena said. “These were her people. She was born in Utah County and raised in Arizona but often said she could not imagine living in a different place. ‘Everything I could ever want is here’ she said.”

And she painted those places and those people she loved. In the late 1980s through the early 1990s, some of that artwork found its way into nearly every household via the local phonebook covers. Her models often included her own family (five daughters, one son) and especially her husband, Richard. Now and then, however, she would be commissioned to paint a memory, usually a portrait of someone who had passed on. She took that responsibility very seriously.

Sheena said she remembers her mother talking about the process she went into doing those portraits.

“It was an extremely difficult experience for her,” she said. “It was a different approach involving much prayer. She said she always felt like she knew her subject well by the time she was done after starring into their eyes for months,” she said.

The ability to bring someone a little comfort with her talents was often reward enough for Lori, who never enjoyed the limelight and took accolades with humble dignity, Sheena added. But some recognitions also meant a great deal to her. Her work has been featured in magazines and in several galleries and museums across the nation, as well as some even closer to home.

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This image is subject to copyright laws and regulations. "Five-Gallons Short," a painting by Lori Nicholas

Take, for instance the painting titled “Preserving Posterity,” submitted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2008 to be judged in the Sixth International Art Competition based on family values. It featured her mother-in-law, Janice Nicholas, bottling peaches with her granddaughters. The painting was taken from a picture that graced the cover of the Peach Day publication put out by the Box Elder New Journal that year.

It won high praise from the judges and was displayed at the Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake for a time. It now holds a place of honor in the Nicholas household.

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This image is subject to copyright laws and regulations. "Preserving Posterity," a painting by Lori Nicholas

When she was diagnosed with cancer, Lori was already working on the next creation for the fair, Sheena said.

“That drove her. She was a professional and she knew what it meant, not only to her but to everyone else who went to the fair.”

It was not quite complete when the end came.

But like any great piece of art, Lori will live on because of who she was.

“She regarded her talent as divinely given.” her daughter concluded. “She felt a special stewardship over it, to use it well and wisely, and she did. I’ve no doubt she could have been more, done more with her art but she chose to rise where she did. She chose first to be a mother and wife. She did as much as she felt she needed to do and remain true do that. And for her that was enough.”

In simple terms, Lori Evans Nicholas’ very existence was a masterpiece of color, and her memory, like her artwork, will continue touching lives forever.

Lori and Richard Nicholas - Courtesy photo
This image is subject to copyright laws and regulations. "Blue Boots and Buckaroos," a painting by Lori Nicholas
This image is subject to copyright laws and regulations. "Missing Mary," a painting by Lori Nicholas