(Lander, WY) – Local painter Noelle Weimann teamed up with Chef Eduardo Garcia on a fundraiser project for the University of Utah Burn Center. A place that helped them both recover and learn to survive.
On Sunday, February 28th, shirts and hats will become available for purchase on the Traeger Grills website. Both items feature a great horned owl, titled My Apparition, painted specifically for this project by Noelle. 100% of the proceeds go to the Burn Center.
Six years ago, Noelle and her husband Feike van Dijk had their lives turned upside down when they lost two children in a house fire and were on the verge of losing a third. Feike was severely burned and had organ complications from the fire as well.
Their family spent several unimaginable months in Salt Lake City at the University of Utah Burn Center during their recoveries and rehabilitation.
A few years earlier, Eduardo also spent nearly two months in the Burn Center after he was electrocuted while out hiking in Montana. His story is shared through an Amazon documentary called Charged – The Eduardo Garcia Story.
While their paths did not cross during their time in Salt Lake City, both Eduardo and Noelle participated in Burn Camp – a recovery trip for adults that takes place on the Colorado River once they are healed and out of the hospital.
Half of the people in the burn unit also go on the trip including nurses and psychologists, Noelle noted. “It’s cool to see them again because they are building into your life again in a different way. It’s good for the staff too. They get closure with their patients and experience what they are capable of years later.”
She described the experience as removing your comfort zone and pushing you into connecting with the other survivors on the trip. “This is really where the healing began.”
Connecting Noelle and Eduardo is Brad Wiggins the Burn Center Nurse Manager and Burn Camp Director.
Eduardo is a professional chef and owner of Bozeman-based Montana Mex, which produces a signature line of sauces, seasonings, and avocado oil.
He recently teamed up with Traeger Grills to carry his line of products. They offered for him to take part in their charitable program to raise money for a charity of his choice. He could select an artist and an image to go on t-shirts and hats.
According to Noelle, he knew he wanted to give back to the Burn Center and specifically the Burn Camp.
Eduardo went to Brad to see if he knew of an artist for the charity that had been through the Burn Center. Knowing Noelle and her art, Brad recommended her.
In October 2020, Noelle was contacted to see if she would be interested in teaming up with Eduardo for this Traeger charity.
“I wasn’t incorporating our burn story with my art,” she said. “I was on the edge when I was approached and I wasn’t sure about bringing that into my art. I have tried to keep them separate. I didn’t want to be the mom who lost two children in a small town fire. I wanted to be me, an artist. It was the one thing I felt went unscathed by the fire.”
She agreed to paint.
The parameters for the piece were different than her traditional paintings. One of the main ones being a limited more neutral color palette. If you’ve ever seen Noelle’s work, it’s full of color. Deciding to have a graphic designer take her painting and align it with the printing parameters was the best bet. She limited herself to 4 colors and painted the 2’x3′ canvas.
A two-week deadline for completion was quick. The first seven days were spent with Eduardo trying to decide what the subject should be, she noted. A great horned owl was decided at the eleventh hour leaving only a week to complete this 60-hour piece.
Once the design for print was complete, Noelle took the original to the Chief Washakie Museum where they auctioned it off for an 80% donation to the museum.
The great horned owl has been Edurado’s spiritual mascot. It’s even part of the Montana Mex logo.
Noelle has never really been into painting birds, and her handful of owl encounters have always been more startling than majestic, to say the least.
The title My Apparition comes from many levels, she continued.
“Working with Eduardo has forced me to deal with this dark period in my life. The owl represents these catalysts in life. It’s there, it’s your destiny, it’s your fate, it comes into your life, startles you, and then it’s gone. I realized that is the trauma that follows a lot of burn survivors. A lot of times the heat that burned them happened in a quick amount of time. The exposure to the heat is very fast and it changes your life altogether.”
By supporting this fundraiser and purchasing these items, you are supporting adults who have been hospitalized and are now meeting with their staff again, Noelle explained. “They are learning how to be a survivor and not a victim. This is when the healing starts; you are looking back to the burn community to navigate what your trauma-affected. I’m glad it is as close to Eduardo’s heart as it is mine.”
Starting February 28th, hats and shirts will be available for sale on the Traeger website.
Click here to learn more about Eduardo Garcia.