Show Preview | Prix de West Invitational

Oklahoma City, OK
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, June 9-August 6

Bonnie Marris, The Takeaway, oil, 36 x 48.

Bonnie Marris, The Takeaway, oil, 36 x 48.

This story was featured in the June 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  June 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

A visit to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum this summer is a highlight of the year for western art devotees. Now in its 45th year, the long-venerated Prix de West Invitational has been described by artists, collectors, and museum staff alike as a jovial annual reunion—a time to greet old friends and familiar faces, and to relish a spectacular showcase of over 300 paintings and sculptures by the country’s finest western artists. The art exhibition and sale opens on Friday, June 9, with a lively lineup of events.

The exhibition spans a range of styles and subject matter, from landscapes, wildlife art, still lifes, and figurative works to more contemporary expressions of western cultures, histories, people, and places. Many artists have participated in Prix de West for years, if not decades, but new participants always bring a fresh perspective on the American West, notes curator Susan Patterson. This year the show welcomes acclaimed artist Mian Situ and guest artists Poteet Victory, Kang Cho, and Bonnie Marris, who join nearly 100 other artists such as Walt Gonske, George Hallmark, Jeremy Lipking, and Morgan Weistling.

World-renowned wildlife sculptor Kent Ullberg recalls his first invitation to Prix de West in 1977, after fellow artist George Carlson encouraged him to submit an entry to the screening committee—a notably tough jury even then. “It gave me the courage to jump off the bridge and quit my job to do sculpture full time,” he says. “That’s what this show did for me. It enabled me to live my dream.”

First-time participant Mian Situ’s impressionistic paintings of China’s countryside and farming communities have been reaping recognition for years. Last year the artist turned his attention to portraying the American West and brings two oils that portray mountain men in western landscapes. “I’ve spent half my life in China and half my life in America,” says the San Dimas, CA, painter. “When I focus on one subject for so long, I like to make some changes and find new inspiration in my art.”

Bronze sculptor and stone carver Steve Kestrel lives on 62 acres in Colorado’s Redstone Canyon, surrounded by abundant wildlife and soaring red sandstone cliffs. The artist estimates that as many as 70 percent of his stone sculptures are made with stones he collects from his land and nearby streambeds. Among the pieces he brings, all carved from river stones, are depictions of the desert grassland whiptail lizard and a pair of dragonflies in 24-karat gold leaf.

Opening weekend highlights include a preview, reception, and awards dinner Friday evening at 6 p.m. Artists’ demonstrations kick off at 1 p.m. on Saturday, followed by a fixed-price draw and live auction beginning at 6 p.m. that evening. Seminars throughout the weekend include a discussion about representational painting by artist David Leffel, who garnered the Prix de West Purchase Award last year. The artist, whose style evokes that of Rembrandt and other old masters, contributes several still lifes, a self-portrait, and a large landscape painting of Des Montes, NM, at dusk.

It all adds up to a beautiful presentation of art that captivates visitors almost immediately upon entering the museum gallery, says Patterson. “It’s incredibly powerful. Every corner you turn is another magnificent display of art that depicts our country.” —Kim Agricola

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This story was featured in the June 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  June 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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