Oklahoma City, OK, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, June 8-August 5
For art lovers drawn to historically authentic depictions of the Old West, the Prix de West Invitational Art Exhibition and Sale has been a must-see show for almost 40 years. More recently, collectors whose interests include visions of present-day western life are equally rewarded by the caliber and selection of paintings and sculpture in the show.
As one of the country’s most prestigious annual exhibitions of representational art, the Prix de West has been hosted by the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City since 1973. The 2012 show kicks off on June 8 with a weekend full of events, including seminars, artists’ demonstrations, a live auction, and the much-anticipated sale and awards banquet. The exhibition continues through August 5.
“It’s always exciting for people to have an opportunity to meet the artists,” notes Susan Patterson, the museum’s manager of contemporary western art shows and sales. “Many artists and collectors have been coming for years, and people become part of each other’s family, so to speak.” Some 1,000 art-lovers are expected to attend the opening-weekend events.
As in years past, the Prix de West presents more than 300 artworks in a variety of genres, including historical, landscape, figurative, wildlife, and still life. Along with numerous returning artists, six first-time participants are included in this year’s exhibition. Although new to the show, they are established, widely collected artists: Scott Burdick, Jeremy Lipking, William Shepherd, Thomas Aquinas Daly, Brent Cotton, and Carolyn Anderson.
Scott Burdick is known for his masterful ability to capture the warmth and humanity of his subjects in portraits and figurative paintings of people from around the globe. Raised in Chicago and now living in rural North Carolina, Burdick reads and travels extensively, his lively curiosity continuously compelling him to learn about and paint the world’s cultures and places. The award-winning artist also creates landscapes and cityscapes, takes part in plein-air painting events, and teaches painting workshops along with his wife, artist Susan Lyon. “We’re very excited to have Scott in the show,” Patterson remarks.
Figurative painter Jeremy Lipking is credited with being a key inspiration in the revival of traditional realism among young California artists. His work is remarkable for the interplay of loose brushwork and fine edges that combine to create a vibrant sense of realism. The 36-year-old artist is known in particular for his sensitive portraits of children and contemplative young women.
In William Shepherd’s immaculately rendered still lifes, artifacts from various western cultures—American Indian, cowboy, Hispano-Catholic, and mid-20th-century kitsch among them—are gathered in eye-catching, often incongruous arrangements. The Wyoming-born artist has lived and painted in a quiet, cottonwood-shaded adobe compound north of Santa Fe, NM, for many years. His work has earned places in numerous private and public collections.
Another still-life and landscape painter new to the Prix de West this year is Thomas Aquinas Daly, who combines a poetic sensibility with a lifetime of outdoorsmanship to create meditative oil and watercolor paintings evoking the beauty of the natural world. Daly, a New York native, was trained as a graphic artist and spent two decades in the commercial printing business before turning to fine art full time in 1981. At the opening of a solo show of his work in 1987, former President Gerald Ford recognized Daly with Grand Central Art Gallery’s Gold Medal.
Montana-based landscape painter Brent Cotton also draws on extensive outdoor experience and a reverence for nature in his transcendent images of the West. His Prix de West offering, SYMPHONY OF THE RIVER, captures the golden light of evening and the serenity of solitude as reflected in the eddies of a river, where a lone fly-fisherman casts his line. Cotton worked as a hunting and fishing guide in Idaho and Alaska before turning to art. His widely collected paintings have earned awards at such events as Arts for the Parks and the C.M. Russell Art Auction.
Also living in Montana and a first-time Prix de West artist, figurative painter Carolyn Anderson creates expressive portraits whose style recalls Russian Impressionists such as Nicolai Fechin. Anderson’s award-winning portraits produce a convincing sense of realism through the deft use of abstraction and visual suggestion. The artist, who works in both oils and pastels, has earned two Best of Show awards at the C.M. Russell Art Auction and received the Master Award of Excellence from the American Impressionist Society in 2010.
This year’s lineup of returning artists includes a number of former Prix de West Purchase Award recipients, among them Gerald Balciar, Martin Grelle, Curt Walters, Morgan Weistling, Kent Ullberg, Scott Christensen, and David Leffel. Christensen, Leffel, and sculptor Glenna Goodacre are participating in this year’s show after each being away for several years, Patterson notes.
Along with seeing the artwork itself, Prix de West attendees have the opportunity to see presentations by several participating artists and art experts. On Friday, June 8, sculptors Blair Buswell, Edward J. Fraughton, and Kent Ullberg discuss their monumental sculpture project in Omaha, NE. Mary Holahan, PhD., curator at the Delaware Art Museum, talks about the influence of “lady illustrator” Katharine Richardson Wireman [1878-1966]. And Prix de West artist Robert “Shoofly” Shufelt talks about his techniques and artwork.
The exhibition preview and reception takes place Friday evening, followed by more presentations and a panel discussion on Saturday, June 9. A highlight of Saturday’s events is a talk by 2011 Prix de West Purchase Award recipient George Carlson and, at noon, the announcement of this year’s Purchase Award winner. Saturday afternoon there are artists’ demonstrations by Sherrie McGraw and Sandy Scott, followed by the sale and awards banquet.
Package tickets and tickets for individual events are available for the opening weekend, with discounts for National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum members. A commemorative 2012 Prix de West catalogue is also available. —Gussie Fauntleroy
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