Show Preview | Oelze & Roberts

Jackson, WY
Legacy Gallery, August 16-September 3

Don Oelze, High Country, oil, 30 x 38.

Don Oelze, High Country, oil, 30 x 38.

This story was featured in the August 2018 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art August 2018 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

Two Artist Focus shows at Legacy Gallery in Jackson, WY, this month invite viewers to travel back in time to the wild, pristine landscapes and riveting narratives that defined the American frontier during the 19th century. As many as 12 new oil paintings by Don Oelze hang between August 16 and 26. Then, 10 new oil paintings by Gary Lynn Roberts take the stage on August 23 and remain on view through September 3.

Collectors who know their American history can appreciate the accurate details Oelze brings to each of his Native American paintings. Lately the Montana artist and consummate researcher has been reading up on the free trappers who worked during the height of the Rocky Mountain fur-trade era. Fascinated by the danger they faced on their persistent quest for “better and better trapping grounds,” Oelze stumbled upon the perfect setting for just such a narrative one day while visiting the small town of Three Forks, MT. “I was watching the Madison River flow by, and in my mind’s eye I could see this whole scene: a trapper who, for whatever reason, had lost his partner and his mount while being chased down by a group of Blackfeet Indians,” he says. Back in his studio, the artist brought the scene to life in a suspense-filled painting titled UNFAVORABLE ODDS.

Even when inspiration flows easily, Oelze notes that every painting presents challenges. Take, for example, the artist’s action-packed depiction of a buffalo hunt titled THUNDER AND DUST. “At first I painted the scene with a bright blue sky and a couple of white fluffy clouds, and although it looked fine, I just didn’t think it gave the action enough drama,” he says. “So, I made a sudden decision to change it to a dark, stormy sky.” The change produced the effect Oelze was after: drama and intensity. “My goal has always been, and continues to be, to make each new painting better than the last,” he says.

Like Oelze, Roberts creates colorful portals into the Old West through his realistic depictions of the frontiersmen and Native Americans who dominated its landscapes. In his Artist Focus pieces, many of the backdrops feature the alpine peaks around his home in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley, creating the illusion of depth. “I like my paintings to be 3-D,” says Roberts. “I want you to feel like you can walk into them and walk 20 miles through them.” While a few pieces in the show portray timeless narratives, Roberts says he often incorporates details that immediately “date” a scene, such as the striped Hudson’s Bay coats worn by the natives in THE CROOKED TRAIL. “I rely on my memory more than photographs when I paint, but I’ll use photographs for education, maybe to see the way a civil war-era saddle was made,” he says.

Though his show focuses exclusively on settings in the Northwest, Roberts also portrays southwestern landscapes on occasion. In fact, the Texas native grew up painting throughout the Southwest with his father, artist Joe Rader Roberts (1925-1982), one of his earliest mentors. He also studied with artists G. Harvey (1933-2017) and A.D. Greer (1904-1988). “I’ve taken a little bit from each one of them,” says Roberts. “I kind of compare painting to a stew; you start adding things to it, and it becomes your own recipe.” —Kim Agricola

contact information
307.733.2353
www.legacygallery.com

This story was featured in the August 2018 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art August 2018 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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