Perceptions of the West

Ann Huston, Freshness of Morning, pastel, 11 x 14.,painting, southwest art.
Ann Huston, Freshness of Morning, pastel, 11 x 14.

By Margaret L. Brown

More than with any other region, our perceptions of the American West have been shaped by artists and writers. Thomas Moran, Frederic Remington, Joseph Sharp, John Steinbeck, Willa Cather, Wallace Stegner these and countless others have solidified and amplified our impressions of the land and its inhabitants. In this issue we view the West through the eyes of a number of painters and sculptors and even one writer: Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Annie Proulx, who has written a new book of short fiction set in Wyoming and illustrated with watercolors by William Matthews.

Perhaps the West remains a continual source of artistic inspiration because it is as interesting as it is beautiful. Cover artist Ed Sandoval and his wife, painter Ann Huston, find their inspiration in New Mexico, traveling the back roads looking for old adobe houses or new views of the landscape. “You can be driving along the highway and something catches your eye and you stop, and it becomes an incredible spot that a lot of people wouldn’t likely have noticed,” says Sandoval. Although working in different styles, both Sandoval and Huston imbue their paintings with the real feeling of the region Sandoval in bright, spirited oils and Huston in subdued but compelling pastels.

Cowboy Artists of America founder John Hampton has been painting, sculpting, and drawing action-filled images of the Old West, from gunfights to cattle roundups, for more than 60 years. Lynn Pyne interviewed the 80-year-old artist in Arizona and discovered that his passion for the West and for his art remains as strong as ever.

In our preview of this month’s Prix de West show in Oklahoma City, 10 artists describe their sources of inspiration. The images range from Carrie Ballantyne’s colored-pencil drawing of a young Nevada buckaroo to Wayne Wolfe’s oil painting of elk cows in the valley of Colorado’s Cimarron River.

A character in one of Annie Proulx’s stories describes a western sky so blue “that he might drown looking up.” As far as perceptions go, it doesn’t get any better than that.

Featured in June 1999