On the Museum Trail

Keeper of the Animals, The Heard Museum, mask, southwest art.
Keeper of the Animals, The Heard Museum

By Leslie Busler

The ideal trip to the West is different for everyone: Some may want to visit a city-on-the-go like Dallas or Los Angeles while others opt for a quieter retreat in the Rocky Mountains. This month Southwest Art visits five western locations, from big cities to small towns, each of which has a fine western museum.

These five museums are part of the Museums West consortium, which includes 10 members that pool resources and collaborate on projects such as the current Powerful Images: Portrayals of Native America [SWA MAY 98]. We selected the five westernmost museums for this issue; watch for details on the other five in July.

Autry Museum of Western Heritage

Los Angeles, California Not far from the Tinseltown that brought the Wild West to the big screen, the Autry Museum preserves images of the West both real and legendary through its exhibits spanning prehistoric times, the Gold Rush, and modern-day cowboys. The uniqueness of the West’s varied cultures and pioneer spirit can be seen in works by Frederic Remington and Charles Russell, in artifacts of the Spanish conquistadors, and in pop-culture icons like the mask worn by the Lone Ranger.


Culture Y Cultura: How the U.S.-Mexican War Shaped the West marks the 150th anniversary of the U.S.- Mexican War. This exhibit, which focuses on the history of the two countries and the conflict and changes since then, runs through September 7. Gold Fever! The Lure and Legacy of the California Gold Rush [SWA JAN 98], runs September 19 to January 24, 1999.

Campesino by Daniel DeSiga, Autry Museum of Western Heritage, painting, southwest art.
Campesino by Daniel DeSiga, Autry Museum of Western Heritage

Area Galleries

A stroll along East Green Street and East Colorado Boulevard between Madison and El Molino in nearby Pasadena takes you by several galleries, shops, and restaurants. In this area, Gallerie Gabrie specializes in both contemporary and historic California plein-air paintings. Also close by are Mendenhall Gallery, which carries works of contemporary California realism, and Poulsen Galleries, with early and contemporary California painters as well as American and European artists.
Pasadena Chamber of Commerce & Civic Association, 818.795.3355

The Heard Museum
Phoenix, Arizona

The Heard Museum has one of the most extensive collections of Native American artifacts and materials in the consortium, including baskets, pottery, textiles, kachina dolls, and jewelry. Contemporary fine art is also on hand, along with regular demonstrations by artists. Three authentic rooms—an Apache wickiup, a Hopi corn-grinding room, and a Navajo hogan—built by Native Americans illustrate their early culture.


Seventh Annual Native American Fine Art Invitational features contemporary art through August 2. Blue Gem, White Metal: Carvings and Jewelry from the C.G. Wallace Collection includes early 20th-century Navajo and Zuni jewelry, silverwork, and carvings through April 1999. Beginning this fall, Risky Business explores the lengths to which contemporary Native American artists will go to expand the boundaries of traditional Indian art.

Area Galleries

Many galleries are located along Main Street and Marshall Way in Scottsdale. Park on the street and walk to more than 250 establishments that carry an array of artwork, from contemporary paintings to Native American pottery. Phoenix & Valley of the Sun Convention & Visitors Bureau, 602.254.6500

Glenbow Museum
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

The Glenbow Museum’s extensive collection provides a look at the cultures that define the history of western Canada. Located near the Canadian Rockies, the museum houses historic works from the region, including those by Native Americans, explorers, and early settlers. The permanent collection has paintings and sculpture along with artifacts such as spurs, clothing, diaries, and journals.

Last of Their Race by J.M. Stanley, Buffalo Bill Historical Center, painting, southwest art.
Last of Their Race by J.M. Stanley, Buffalo Bill Historical Center


Just for the Love of It: The Shirley and Peter Savage Collection of Canadian Prints, on view through September 7, features more than 250 works by Canadian printmakers. Plain Truth: Photographers and Filmakers in Western Canada displays photographs produced between 1880 and 1950 and analyzes the various roles of photography in the history of the West; it hangs through August 16. Alberta Biennial of Contemporary Art showcases works by Alberta artists and runs September 5 through January 3, 1999. Creating the Image of Land assesses how artists have influenced the way viewers perceive the West today. See it September 19 through August 1999.

Area Galleries

Most galleries can be found at the Stephen Avenue Mall in downtown Calgary, an area that also has restaurants and shops. Just a short drive from the city is Canmore, a mountain town that offers galleries, shops, and restaurants in an alpine setting.
Calgary Convention & Visitors Bureau, 800.661.1678

Buffalo Bill Historical Center

Cody, Wyoming

Only an hour’s drive from Yellowstone National Park, the Buffalo Bill Historical Center consists of four museums that chronicle the Old West. The Buffalo Bill Museum collection includes many of William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody’s personal items, including materials from his family life and Wild West Show. The Whitney Gallery of Art exhibits paintings, sculptures, and prints by such well-known artists as N.C. Wyeth and Frederic Remington. In the Cody Firearms Museum, nearly 4,000 American and European arms document the history of firearms and their influence on early American life. Finally, the Plains Indian Museum captures the history and culture of the Native American Plains tribes through an array of art and artifacts.


Powerful Images: Portrayals of Native America is on view through August 16. Art of the Southern Cheyenne, featuring Native American ledger paintings and drawings, shows through 1999. Expedition to the Rocky Mountains: Paintings by Alfred Jacob Miller, February 12 through December 31, explores in more than 200 watercolors this 19th-century artist’s experiences with fur trappers and Indians.

Area Galleries

A walk down Sheridan Avenue, Cody’s main street, takes you past restaurants, western shops, and souvenir stores in addition to several galleries. Big Horn Galleries carries western, landscape, and wildlife art, while Raven Fine Art specializes in expressionistic and realistic paintings and sculpture. Simpson Gallagher Gallery on 13th Street shows representational paintings, sculpture, and etchings by artists such as Clyde Aspevig, Matt Smith, and William Reese. Cody Convention & Visitors Bureau, 307.587.2297

Tribal Hunt by John Clymer, National Museum of Wildlife Art, painting, southwest art.
Tribal Hunt by John Clymer, National Museum of Wildlife Art

National Museum of Wildlife Art
Jackson, Wyoming

With Grand Teton National Park as a suitable backdrop, this museum has a permanent collection of wildlife art by more than 100 artists. Most of the exhibits focus on such legendary artists as George Catlin and Albert Bierstadt, but the museum also includes Native American, historic, photographic, and natural history exhibits.


Elizabeth Gill Lui: The Horizon Within features photographic collages and natural images through September 23. For Chased by the Light: A 90-Day Journey with Jim Brandenburg, the photographer rediscovered his love for wilderness photography by shooting only one photograph a day for 90 days. See his show through January 10. George Catlin: First Artist of the West includes paintings of wildlife, Native Americans, and natural scenery along the Missouri River. It runs June 19 through January 8, 1999.

Area Galleries

The town of Jackson is just a 10-minute drive from the museum. More than 35 galleries line the downtown square, many of which are along King and South Glenwood streets. They specialize in a broad spectrum of works, from traditional western paintings and sculpture to cutting-edge contemporary crafts. Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce, 307.733.3316

Featured in June 1998