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Montana artist finds inspiration to give back after tragedy hits home

Skull artwork
Posted at 11:05 AM, Mar 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-29 13:05:42-04

WARREN – A Montana artist is finding a new kind of inspiration through a recent tragedy that took the lives of two young Wyoming teens.

For Warren rancher Jean Anderson Loyning, giving back is easy to do.

“If I can do a little bit to ease a financial burden for them and I am able to do that. I am blessed to be able to do that, why wouldn’t I?” she said.

With the backdrop of the Pryor Mountains and steady wind, the family’s 100,000-acre cattle ranch has been tucked into the high desert landscape of southeastern Montana for decades.


Anyone who knows the ranching lifestyle knows it takes a lot of hard work and determination, but Loyning says her family is blessed.

“Well, we kind of, you know, you kind of have to be really proud,” she said. “And I am of our history.”

Blessed because she takes comfort in her ability to create art and finds inspiration in her beautiful ranch surroundings.

But she says when it comes to fine art, sometimes there’s so much more that goes into it, "this is my happy place."

When asked, she’ll tell you she has good reasoning for becoming an artist, “I just did this because I needed something to do in my spare time."

She specializes in mosaic skulls adorned with color and textures.

She’s a notable Montana artist as her pieces hang at a gallery in Cody, Wyo. and sell for thousands of dollars.

Loyning will joke that she’s watched a lot of YouTube videos as she was getting started, but watching her work unfold it's clear it comes naturally.

“You start doing it and it speaks to you,” she said.

Loyning works in a small art studio at the ranch house packed with art supplies.

And outside the doors of her studio, her home is filled with beautiful drawings, paintings, and stained-glass pieces from dear family and friends.

“Art runs in our family,” she says.

Her specialty has always been mosaic, "I've always really liked skulls. Make them look nice, it makes me happy to redo something."


As she works to attach beads and tile to a colorful bison skull with clay, she’s talking about how her process is more freestyle than calculated.

And when you watch her work, you’ll see it’s also tedious.

“The biggest thing for me is finding focal pieces,” she said.” And then I go back, and I move things and I go back and pick things off that I don’t like.”

The skull is being donated as part of a recent charity auction.

Loyning felt a call to action when back in February tragedy struck the Powell community.

Back then, teenage siblings Peiton and Phoenix Hackenberg died in a tragic car crash on their way to school after hitting icy roads.

Peiton Hackenberg

Phoenix Hackenberg (left)

Loyning felt she needed to do something from her heart.

“Because it about broke my heart when I first heard about it, it was awful,” she said.

But also, because the Hackenbergs are related to her husband Paul, meaning they are family.

She felt compelled to do something to ease the pain of Paul’s niece who is now dealing with the loss of her two children in the worst way.

The skull is an auction item that will send roughly a couple thousand in the direction of the family, a small gesture that leaves a big impact.

“If I can help, why wouldn’t I?” she said.

Loyning says it’s not the first auction charity piece of art she’s completed.

Now, she’s planning to also help a Broadus family who also lost two children in a car crash on their way to school back in March.

“Why wouldn't anybody?” she said.

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