Legacy Gallery, March 3-13
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.
The American West, with all of its myths, legends, and lore, has a strong hold on our collective imagination. Images of cattle drives, stagecoaches, and pioneers streaming across the Plains come to mind, among many others. Today’s western artists often remind us of these rugged frontier days in their paintings and sculptures. And the top artists working in this genre are often keen students of American history, which contributes to the authenticity and compelling nature of their work. This month Legacy Gallery presents works by 20 of these passionate western artists in a show titled Legacy of the American West. The presentation features 40 to 50 pieces and opens with a reception from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, March 3. Among the highly regarded participating artists are Charles Fritz, Glenn Dean, Kyle Polzin, C. Michael Dudash, and Jim Norton.
Artist David Mann is always eager to participate in the annual event because, he says, the gallery and its owners have a powerful vision of the greatness of the American West. In Mann’s moody nocturnal MOON BLESSINGS, which is on view in the show, he captures the romantic and mysterious atmosphere created by moonlight. “MOON BLESSINGS represents a moment when a Native American night traveler is spiritually overwhelmed by the beauty and power of the prairie moon,” Mann says. “Cool moonlight floods his eyes as he looks skyward and finds harmony with the floating blue orb of the night sky.”
In John Fawcett’s multifigure painting CAPTAIN VARNUM’S SCOUTS, also in the show, he presents an aspect of the West’s complicated history. The painting is inspired by the story of Charles Varnum, a graduate of West Point who survived many expeditions and battles in the late 1880s. And at one point he was the commander of the Crow and Arikaree scouts for the Seventh Cavalry, which are the subjects of the painting. “His scouts could be identified by the red sashes they wore, and they played an important role in navigating the treacherous West,” Fawcett says. “Despite being paid by the United States government and being issued military sack coats, weapons, and horses, they still maintained their Native American identity.”
The Pony Express is often given credit for being the first fast mail-delivery service, but in PRAIRIE MAIL, painter Karin Hollebeke spotlights the stagecoach as another important element in the development of the West. As Hollebeke points out, even with the arrival of the railroads, stagecoaches continued to operate, carrying passengers and mail into isolated areas. In PRAIRIE MAIL she captures this slice of western life while paying homage to the venerable vehicle and its driver. “Familiar with the families in this area, the stagecoach driver has stopped to deliver a long-awaited letter to a working cowboy,” Hollebeke says of the narrative work. “In my paintings I try to convey the drama and expansion of the American West, which has been a lifelong fascination for me.” —Bonnie Gangelhoff
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