Editor’s Letter | The Eclectic West

Quality and diversity at the Coors show

By Kristin Hoerth

Gracie at Daybreak by Don Coen

Gracie at Daybreak by Don Coen

Every year, just as the holiday season comes to a close, I look forward to the opening of the Coors Western Art Exhibit & Sale. It’s a major event on the western art show calendar, with an eclectic roster of 65 top-notch artists that this year included Quang Ho, Steve Kestrel, Dean Mitchell, Tim Shinabarger, Don Stinson, and Theodore Waddell. It’s the only major western art show held in my hometown of Denver, and one that Southwest Art is very proud to sponsor.

One of the stars of this year’s show was Colorado still-life painter Scott Fraser. Fraser was the recipient of both the Best of Show and Artists’ Choice awards—the first time one artist has won both prizes, and the first time Fraser has won either award at this event. The recognition was well-deserved; his polished works displayed refined design and composition, sure handling of paint, and a strong sense of symbolism—not to mention keen humor.

My colleagues and I were pleased to select Colorado artist Don Coen as the winner of this year’s Southwest Art Award, which goes to the artist with the strongest body of work in the show. Coen showed two large paintings, GRACIE AT DAYBREAK and CHRISTMAS IN ORDWAY, whose quiet yet bold drama and sheer size combined to give them substantial impact. The same could also be said of his highly popular suite of nine 16-by-16-inch ink drawings featuring cows, horses, and other western animals.

Coen’s name may not be quite as familiar as the names of other highly respected western artists, and that’s a shame. After creating abstract and nonobjective work during the 1960s and 1970s, he returned to the family farm where he had grown up in Lamar, on Colorado’s eastern plains, and dedicated himself to chronicling contemporary rural America. The Lamar Series—fifteen oversize canvases that celebrate the beauty andcomplexity of farm life—traveled to multiple museums throughout the Midwest and now reside in public and private collections around the world.

Coen’s latest project is the Migrant Series, which documents the American migrant worker. For this series he has traveled extensively across the country, meeting, photographing, and painting—again on a large scale—members of the migrant population and the landscapes they work in. Coen’s goal, he says, is “to give the migrant workers an identity and voice” through his paintings. The Migrant Series debuts in September at the Phoenix Art Museum, and plans are in the works for a subsequent tour to additional museums.

Featured in the March 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
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