By Bonnie Gangelhoff
What inspired your winning entry? My inspiration comes from my great-great-grandfather, Horatio Shaw. As a farmer and painter, he worked in a little studio that he called his “shanty” in the apple orchard behind his house. It was heated by a Franklin stove, and half of the floor was dirt to allow for the models he used—his sheep. I grew up with many of his lovely paintings adorning the walls of my parents’ home. What I loved the most were the “family portraits” that he did of his merino sheep, which are primitive, simple, and yet elegant. For the past several years, I have been exploring my family history. So my painting depicting sheep was a natural outcome. I have spent time roaming around farms near my home in Aurora, CO, as well as in Lenawee County, MI, where I grew up.
Do you come from an artistic background? My great-great-grandfather studied with Thomas Eakins for two years at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, PA. He left his wife and young child in Michigan to follow his passion and submitted himself to the most rigorous course in artistic practice available at the time. I’m sure he must have been considered crazy by most of his family and friends. Afterward, he returned to his farm and family, gradually losing touch with the art world. He lived the remainder of his life as a farmer and painter. He continued to submit his paintings to various shows in Detroit, to a gallery in New York City, and once was accepted into a Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts exhibition. He painted his personal surroundings, a chronicle of a small Midwestern farmer in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Though he received little recognition during his lifetime, the National Collection of Fine Arts (now known as the Smithsonian American Art Museum) honored him with an exhibition
of 47 of his works in 1974-1975.
Where did you study art? I have studied primarily at the Art Students League of Denver. I feel very fortunate to have learned from some of the best and nicest artists working today, including Ron Hicks, Quang Ho, Doug Dawson, Terry Ludwig, and Joshua Fallik.
What is your favorite subject matter and why? I tend to paint what grabs me. It may be a landscape or a group of people enjoying life together or three funny-looking sheep giving me “the look.” But whatever it is, it must speak to me. It could be a memory of a special time, a wonderful place, a warm feeling, a great atmosphere, extraordinary color, a bit of humor, or even a unique smell.
What is the most meaningful recognition you have received for your artwork? I’ve had enough rejection to keep me humble and to remind me of the subjective nature of the art world. I’ve also received enough awards, like this one, to encourage me and help me to remember that I did the right thing when I quit the corporate world four years ago to pursue my dream.
Representation: Giacobbe-Fritz Fine Art, Santa Fe, NM; www.debkaylor.com.
Featured in December 2011.