It was there in Colorado that she first heard about the Big Bend , in 1981 . She decided to give it a look .
“ That first year I was overwhelmed with so many places to go ,” she said . She wound up exploring and painting the furthest reaches of the National Park , climbing every possible mountain and backpacking in the desert , and has made it her winter camp every year since , with the exception of Covid years .
In 2003 , after Wiggins ’ s mother passed away , she drove to the park and camped at Rice Tank on a two-week permit . When she emerged to get another permit at Panther Junction , the ranger told her that her limit was up . Increased visitation had caused the National Park to change its camping permit policies , to allow more visitors access to its campsites . She drove instead to Stillwell ’ s at sunset , where she was greeted by W . T ., the wonderful old manager there , who invited her to a ranger talk that evening .
“ The head of the volunteers at the time was named Angelina Yost ,” she said . “ After her
Priscilla ’ s winter camp at Stillwell ’ s .
ranger talk , I asked her if they ’ d like a volunteer artist-in-residence in exchange for a camping site . She said she ’ d discuss it with her people and I should come to her office at Panther Junction the next day . All agreed it was a good idea . I got a uniform , filled out the forms and got started .”
Wiggins held a show in her mother ’ s honor at Panther Junction on April 7 of that year , her mother ’ s birthday . She gave painting demonstrations , talked to visitors and displayed her work .
In 2006 , she became the artist-in-residence at Stillwell Ranch , just west of Black Gap Wildlife Management Area , which borders the park to the north and east . It ’ s a role she ’ s enjoyed every year since with the exception of Covid years . When truly severe winter weather interferes with her camping , she can drive to the Stillwell store and plug her camper in to keep warm . And the store happily carries the notecards she has printed of her paintings .
Wiggins has visited many places in her decades of outdoor life , spending part of several winters in the tropics . She would fly to Hawaii , Florida or the U . S . Virgin Islands from West Texas . She spent three to six weeks each winter in U . S . Virgin Islands National Park from 2006 to 2016 , painting the water , which she loves . “ I love snorkeling ,” she said . In 2011 she visited the Kingdom of Bhutan in the Eastern Himalayas , intrigued by the nation ’ s Ministry of Happiness .
“ One day the clouds lifted and you could see the Himalayas ,” she said . A guide took her and a friend up to a temple , where they climbed the stairs onto the roof . “ There were converging valleys coming down in an amazing view , and then an enormous butterfly as wide as my hand flew inches in front of my face .”
Because her simple lifestyle has allowed her to travel extensively , Wiggin ’ s portfolio is a showcase of a rich variety of nature . Tropical forests , oceans , mountains , rivers and animals . She says that wildlife often visits her while she sits quietly at her work , and she has a rule about them . “ If a critter comes while I have the brush in hand , I have to put them in the painting ,” she said . She described the day a family of javelina came racing down the hill next to her campsite , but they were too fast for her to paint . She ’ s had deer , coyotes , lots of bears , rattlesnakes and her beloved Colorado mountain goats visit her , as well .
“ I feel the energy around me as I paint ,” she said . “ I have to be there : amid the sounds and smells of nature .”
When asked what some of her favorite Big Bend locations are , she had to consider a moment . “ I hesitate to say ,” she said . “ The Old Ore Road , Juniper Canyon Road , and the Glen Springs Road .” She added that she was bound for La Noria campsite on the Old Ore Road this March . “ It ’ s one of my favorite places to paint the Chisos .”
Wiggins primarily works in oils , but also loves watercolors . She said it takes her about three weeks to complete her larger oil paintings , working several hours each afternoon if the weather allows . She has had many solo shows in Santa Fe , including at Laurel Seth Gallery and the Eli Levin Studio . She is represented by Argos Studio-Gallery in Santa Fe . Locally , her work can currently be seen at the Old Spanish Trails Gallery outside Fort Davis and at Eve ’ s Garden in Marathon . Prints of her work are available at the Stillwell Store .
To view her work online , including the aspen trees she ’ s been painting since 1979 , go to http :// argos-gallery . com / Argos _ Site / Wiggins1 . htm . �
14 Big Bend Real Estate Guide • May 2023