Masters of the American West Preview

Plains Monarch, oil, 24 x 32. southwest art.
Plains Monarch, oil, 24 x 32.

Tucker Smith
“I paint a lot of wildlife,” says Wyoming artist Tucker Smith. “With this particular one, I decided to make a monumental-type pose on purpose. The side view of a large bull—it’s more a representation of the character of the bison.” The symbol of Smith’s home state, the bison is a heroic creature and, according to the artist, “It’s kind of a symbol for the West.” While working, Smith projects slides onto a wall because the large image gives him the feeling of actually being there more than looking at a 3-inch snapshot does. He’s a stickler for anatomy and uses as much reference material as he can get his hands on. “I also want to go beyond anatomy,” Smith says. “I try to capture the character of the animal.” Smith is represented by Trailside Galleries, Jackson, WY; Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, NM; and Settlers West Galleries, Tucson, AZ.

Westward the Course of Empire, oil, 24 x 36. painting, southwest art.
Westward the Course of Empire, oil, 24 x 36.

Dan Mieduch
When Dan Mieduch put brush to canvas to create Westward the Course of Empire, he wanted to portray the positive side of early cross-country travel rather than the harrowing experience it so often was. “It’s a smooth-sailing, pastoral scene,” the artist says. “Many thought the stagecoach was a rough ride—Mark Twain thought it was awful.” People were jostled about; they drowned crossing rivers when coaches turned over. But the travel was exciting, says Mieduch, for these people were going out West! “A lot of hardships we think of today, they probably didn’t even consider back then. These people had a certain attitude, a state of mind they were looking for the big sky.” The color, the smooth gait of the horses, and the pastel reflections in the water—they all convey a sense of calm energy, and Mieduch’s powerful sunset is calling travelers onward. The artist is represented by Legacy Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ, and Jackson, WY; Texas Art Gallery, Dallas, TX; Mountain Trails Gallery, Sedona, AZ; El Presidio Gallery, Tucson, AZ; and Settlers West Galleries, Tucson, AZ.

The Mountain Men, oil, 30 x 40. painting, southwest art.
The Mountain Men, oil, 30 x 40.

Ralph Oberg
The Rocky Mountain goats of Ralph Oberg’s paintings are true mountain men, hence the title. “They enjoy living high on the mountainside,” says Oberg. “They are among the most agile of mountain animals.” The Colorado artist likes depicting these and other wildlife such as elk and bighorn sheep because they are such a familiar part of the high-mountain wilderness he has enjoyed all his life. An avid hiker and climber when he was younger, Oberg often encountered such animals, leading to his early career as a wildlife artist. Throughout the 1990s he focused more on landscape painting, and at the close of the decade he has come full circle now combining his knowledge of wildlife anatomy with the skills he’s picked up painting en plein air. He is represented by Legacy Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ, and Jackson, WY; DeMott Gallery, Vail, CO; and Simpson Gallagher Gallery, Cody, WY.

Copper Pitcher With Melons, oil, 24 x 26. painting, southwest art.
Copper Pitcher With Melons, oil, 24 x 26.

Eleanor Moore

Because Eleanor Moore’s still lifes are reminiscent of the old school rather than the Old West, she included a copper pitcher in the composition of this painting, feeling it added a hint of “Americana” to the piece. Her paintings, popular at galleries throughout the West, complement the many traditional western works in the show. Of the elements she chose for this tableau, Moore says, “I love the contrast of the melon and the grapes. To me the light and the dark adds such drama.” There is also a subtle thread of light in the orange of the melon and the metallic glow of the copper, as well as the warmth of the background. “I use some of the light colors in the objects to lighten the area around them,” she says. This approach, she adds, makes it seem as if the objects are giving off light. Moore is represented by Trailside Galleries, Scottsdale, AZ, and Jackson, WY; Gallery Americana, Carmel, CA; and Butler Fine Art, New Canaan, CT.

Kids and Roses, oil, 36 x 40. painting, southwest art.
Kids and Roses, oil, 36 x 40.

Morgan Weistling
Like many figure painters, Morgan Weistling often starts out with one idea, only to abandon it for another. Such was the case with Kids and Roses, which Weistling had originally intended to be a serene painting of two girls arranging roses with the goats at their feet eating the fallen petals. “When I let in the goats, they just wreaked havoc,” says the artist. “One goat jumped on the table, and within 30 seconds all my flowers were in pieces. But what was amazing is that my two models just stayed serene. Their calm in the midst of the ‘goat storm’ became the theme of the painting.” While Weistling works, he divorces himself from the subject matter, concentrating on the mechanics of painting—simplifying form, creating a variety of edges. With this approach he hopes to avoid creating images that are too sweet. “There’s a lot of palette and knife work in this painting—it’s really thick,” he says. “Even though this is a very complex piece, I was trying to simply suggest detail.” Weistling is represented by Trailside Galleries, Scottsdale, AZ, and Jackson, WY.

Low Water on the Snake, acrylic, 18 x 24. painting, southwest art.
Low Water on the Snake, acrylic, 18 x 24.

Bob Kuhn

The cool tones of Bob Kuhn’s Low Water on the Snake truly capture the lonesome, dank feeling of this riverbed. “The theme is the treatment of gray,” says Kuhn. “I tried to let a little color peek through the background, which is quite dark; it adds a nice hint of light.” Kuhn started with a photograph of a similar landscape. It’s a very controlled treatment of deadwood at a low point in the river, he says. He added the buck to the arrangement of dead falls—a stalwart animal that adds both peace and strength to the work. The Arizona artist paints in acrylic, but he thins out the paint to the point that when put on canvas it looks like a transparent watercolor. “It is watercolor—but it’s permanent. You can skate on it,” he says. Kuhn is represented by Settlers West Galleries, Tucson, AZ; Collector’s Covey, Dallas, TX; and J.N. Bartfield Galleries, New York, NY.

Grandchild s First Dance, oil, 48 x 60. painting, southwest art.
Grandchild’s First Dance, oil, 48 x 60.

Kevin Red Star
Known widely for his Native American portraits and paintings of horses, artist Kevin Red Star says he also enjoys depicting the daily life of Native people. In Grandchild’s First Dance, Red Star wanted to capture the special relationship between grandparents and grandchild. “The child is really cherished and loved by grandparents,” he says. The little girl pictured here is desperate to dance, but dancing in Crow Indian culture is reserved for older girls. “They have to go through a ceremony,” he says. “It’s like a coming out. But this little girl wants to dance so much, and she talks her grandparents into it.” Red Star has three daughters himself, and this work highlights his love for his family. A Crow Indian, he portrays his people as a sort of cultural recorder. He is represented by Ventana Fine Art, Santa Fe, NM; Martin-Harris Gallery, Jackson, WY; Shared Visions Gallery, Delray Beach, FL; Galerie Zuger, Aspen and Vail, CO; and Kevin Red Star Gallery, Red Lodge, MT.

George Carlson
Sculptor George Carlson has an ongoing love affair with the horse, and drafthorses in particular, because they are such monumental, powerful beings. Thus when he was invited to accompany a friend to a Percheron farm, he eagerly went along. “They had this absolutely gorgeous Percheron stallion, about six years old, in perfect condition,” says Carlson. That horse is the inspiration for Descendant of a War Horse. “This particular stallion had a real wavy, long mane. He was solid black, and that black would actually give off light when he was standing in the sun. I kept thinking he looked like something out of the age of chivalry.” When the owner tied the stallion up and brought out several mares, he became keenly observant. “That was the look I wanted. That absolute focus and awareness.” The only drawback, says Carlson, is having to scale back the immensity of such a beast—the sculpture is one-sixth life-size. But the work is still powerful, something that can be attributed to the artist’s technique. “I work mainly from life because there’s just something about the life force—that lifeblood that goes through an animal or person and gives it such power,” he says. Carlson is represented by Owings-Dewey Fine Art, Santa Fe, NM; Montgomery Gallery, San Francisco, CA; Erin Vaughan Gallery, Franktown, CO; and Total Arts Gallery, Taos, NM.

Canyon Mirror, watercolor, 16 x 11. painting, southwest art.
Canyon Mirror, watercolor, 16 x 11.

Kay Homan

Canyon Mirror is a canyon of imagination. Kay Homan never depicts a landscape from life; instead, she creates it in her mind, based on memories, photographs, and research. This particular landscape is a blend of three canyons in southern Utah; the cowboy and horses, too, are her creation (though the rider bears a likeness to her uncle). For Homan what is most key to this painting is the creek. “I’ve been interested in painting water reflections,” she says. “Water is always a challenge—water over a muddy bed, over rocks.” Homan did a lot of research on everything from mud to river current. And there was a lot of experimentation; watercolor is a tough medium for realism, she says. “In just one of my watercolors there’s the time and work of three paintings in other mediums because there’s so much glazing, so much lifting to get that realism.” Homan is represented by Mountain Trails Gallery, Park City, UT.

Featured in “Portfolio” February 2000