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  • Sarah Wettemann

New Painting Celebrates 50th anniversary of Female Rangers

July 27, 2022 — “You have traveled far, but the hardest part of a journey is always the next step.” - Peter Christen Asbjorsen and Jorgen Moe, “East of the Sun, West of the Moon”

To celebrate 50 years of women serving as rangers at Philmont Scout Ranch, Jeff Segler painted “East of the Sun, West of the Moon: I Want to Go Back to Philmont 2.” Segler’s painting had to capture the essence of female rangers but also honor those who paved the way for them.

Segler said he was inspired by the Norwegian fairytale “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” and the way the story portrays both the strength and independence of a young woman in addition to the importance of relationships.

Artist Jeff Segler presents his painting at an unveiling ceremony at the National Scouting Museum in Cimarron, N.M., on July 18, 2022. Photo by Sarah Wettemann.

The story is about a girl who is taken by a white bear to pay her family’s debts. The bear turns out to be a cursed prince who was taken to a place that lies east of the sun and west of the moon and the girl's journey to save him. In doing so, she faces the decision to leave home, homesickness and the tough choices that are nonetheless right for her life.

“East of the Sun, West of the Moon” is a significant inspiration for the whole piece...

“I also think of this piece as having a soundtrack, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata,” Segler said.

While planning the painting unveiling, Segler imagined reciting the fairytale with Moonlight Sonata being played in the background. The music shifts as the intensity of the story grows and changes all in perfect balance with the emotions conveyed by the painting and felt by those viewing it.

With an aspen branch in one hand and the ranger axe in the other, the posing is reminiscent of Rosie the Riveter. Drawing inspiration not only from Rosie but also from “East of the Sun, West of the Moon”, Segler captured the essence of a strong and independent woman who did a job traditionally done by men and did it well.

“[Rosie the Riveter] is a tribute to the women of World War II when all the men and boys were sent off to war, and the women had to pick up where they left off,” Segler said. “They did a man’s job, and they did it better. It was just the perfect concept for the painting.”

“East of the Sun, West of the Moon: I Want to Go Back to Philmont 2,” oil on canvas, by Jeff Segler, 2022.

A room full of strong women all looked in awe at the immortalization of female rangers through the painting while knowing the challenges that stood in their way, and those still ahead.

The process of choosing a subject, what she should convey, what gear she had and ensuring it would represent female rangers as a whole was no easy feat.

After a phone call while Segler sat in a parking lot during a trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico, Katie Nagib agreed to be the woman for the job. Nagib worked as a ranger in 2018 and 2019 and a ranger trainer in 2021.

In the painting, Nagib is perched on a stool that is sitting on a stack of books. The books are authored by Kathy Leach, Nancy Wells, Joyce Schroeder and Sallisbury, women who were the first female rangers and the first and only two female Chief Rangers.

“I wanted to do it and not make it just about Katie but all the people who came before her,” Segler said “So, I made up these first two books. On the shoulders of giants obviously suggests that it wasn’t just one person doing it.”

In Segler’s original sketch for the 1981 painting “I Want to Go Back to Philmont,” Segler depicted a female ranger, ten years after women were first in the department. After doing the sketch, he ultimately decided to change the subject to a male ranger.

“I don’t know if I thought it was too soon or that this might be more universal at the time,” Segler said. “I don’t remember, but I went home with the idea to do it. My friend Jack grew up in the same area, so he was easily accessible and could make the photo shoot happen and do the painting.”

When Segler was approached by Philmont leadership to do a second painting, this time with a woman, he had the women of the ranger department involved every step of the way. The women in ranger leadership were crucial in building and protecting the legacy of not only female rangers but Philmont as a whole.

“It’s a portrait of women rangers all the way back and also every staff member,” Segler said. “It’s not just for the 50th anniversary of the women rangers, it’s for everyone.”

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