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Boise artist painting scenes of old horse stalls at Les Bois Park

For the past several months, Boise artist Chi Westin has put up his painter's box in a place - that for the last seven years - hasn't put up with much activity.

BOISE, Idaho — You cannot stop time or progress. Both have done their best to remove the remnants of our past across the Treasure Valley. 

Old buildings, specifically, are reminders of what we used to be. One Boise artists has taken it upon himself to capture those things in color and detail.

For the past several months, Chi Westin has put up his painter's box in a place - that for the last seven years - hasn't put up with much activity. 

"It's wonderful to have a place where you can paint, where it's quiet and just be left alone," Westin said.

Westin's subject; the horse barns on the north end of Les Bois Park. 

"I just want to catch all the small stuff that you don't see in photographs," Westin said. 

For decades during the summer, the breezeways at the horse track were bustling. It's a stable scene Westin has never seen. 

"No, no. I can imagine," Westin said. "I see an incredible beauty, just hard work, people coming out year-after-year and different horses moving through. You know, I kind of see the story of a life out here. So, when I'm painting, I'm trying to capture that feeling.

"Right now, this is just tiny detail work, just to capture the real feel of the place that's been used, no longer pristine. Some of them have more boards. Some of them go all the way up. Some of them have been eaten on by the horses and some not. So, they're all very, very different."

Westin has an eye for feelings. 

"If we wanted it perfect, we would just take a photograph. We don't need that. We're trying to paint what it feels like," Westin said. "I think a part of it is the type of life we're leading right now, does not have room for reflection."

That sentimentality is why Westin has made old structures, like the horse barns, his mission. 

"A couple of years back, I was spending a lot of time over on Eagle Island and I finished this beautiful painting, it was about this size, of one of the buildings out there," Westin said. "I went back the next week to paint another angle of it, because it was so perfect and the building was gone. I went, 'what happened? What are they doing?' That's when I started looking around and realizing things are disappearing and I didn't even notice. 

"Painting old fence lines that are full of weeds - they're gone - they're really hard to find now. Any of those old places, they're getting torn down. So, I started looking for that, looking for the places that are disappearing."

Westin's paintings may give these places another life, in acrylic on canvass. 

"Just to record them and say, 'hey, this is where we live, this is our home.' Nowadays, this is going to be our memories," Westin said. 

The stalls at Les Bois park were supposed to be torn down this summer, but the schedule for demolition has been delayed and likely won't happen until this fall. So, they won't be there much longer. 

Westin's work can be seen on the next First Thursday on July 7 in downtown Boise. He has a studio space in the Alaska Building on Main Street. 

The Boise artist plans to do a few more of these smaller painting and then make six larger painting over the next year - if you want to get your hands on some Treasure Valley history.

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