Featured Event | Cowgirl Up!

Wickenburg, AZ
Desert Caballeros Western Museum, March 18-May 8

Jennifer Cavan, Dancing into Autumn, oil, 30 x 40.

Jennifer Cavan, Dancing into Autumn, oil, 30 x 40.

This story was featured in the March 2016 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art March 2016 print issue or digital download now then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

A decade ago, the Desert Caballeros Western Museum brought together 56 women artists for a show that celebrated their unique contributions to the West’s artistic legacy. Over the years that event, called Cowgirl Up! Art from the Other Half of the West Invitational Exhibition & Sale, has steadily grown in stature and evolved into a popular destination for both artists and collectors. “We have artists stretching beyond traditional western art to embrace the West’s unique lifestyle and spirit,” says Sandra Harris, the museum’s executive director. Indeed, the show features a wide variety of works, from traditional depictions of cowboys on the range to contemporary abstracted landscapes. Each year new artists are added to keep the show fresh. This year the show also expands its miniatures show by devoting more wall space to the event.

The saga of the West unfolds in the current show through the creative eyes of 58 artists who hail from across the country. More than 200 of their paintings, sculptures, and drawings are on view. The weekend’s festivities kick off with the miniatures show and sale from 4:30 to 9 p.m. on Friday, March 18. The Bash-n-Bid Sale and Gala happens from 4:30 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, March 19, followed by the Quick Draw and Chuck Wagon Breakfast on Sunday.

Painter Sharon Markwardt is a five-year veteran of Cowgirl Up! and considers it her favorite show because of the opportunity it brings to interact with both top-notch artists and enthusiastic collectors. Markwardt adds that the parties are a lot of fun, too! One of her paintings for the show, THUNDER DANCE, offers a colorful, close-up look at a bison. “I created it to reflect the soulful nature of the bison, as well as its beauty,” she says. “Embedded within the piece are inspiring words like spirit, courage, wisdom, and strength.”

Laura Koller, Transitions, oil, 17 x 21.

Laura Koller, Transitions, oil, 17 x 21.

Artist Kathy Beekman agrees with Markwardt about the parties, noting that the volunteers and museum staff treat the artists like Hollywood movie stars. “Photographs are taken and we are wined and dined,” Beekman says. Like Markwardt, she appreciates the camaraderie among the artists and what she describes as “the enthusiasm of serious collectors.” This year Beekman’s pastels feature her signature minimalist style combined with her fondness for old barns and other structures.

New Mexico artist Jennifer Cavan offers yet another contemporary take on the West with her playful paintings. In DANCING INTO AUTUMN, she evokes the rainbow of colors that mark every fall in the Land of Enchantment. “The cottonwoods turn delicious yellows, the scrub oak is rich sienna to red, and all of it is balanced against the greens of the piñon,” she says.

For Cavan the entire Cowgirl Up! experience is something she looks forward to every year. “The show is beautifully hung in the museum, Wickenburg is a friendly town and supportive of the artists, and the event allows me to push myself as an artist,” Cavan says. “What a fun experience!” —Bonnie Gangelhoff

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Featured in the March 2016 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art March 2016 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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