Portfolio | Capturing the New West

Meet 10 artists who put a contemporary twist on western art

This story was featured in the August 2012 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Order the Southwest Art magazine August 2012 print edition here, or purchase the Southwest Art magazine August 2012 digital download here. Or simply click here to subscribe to Southwest Art magazine and never miss a story!

Sophy Brown

Roll With It, Blue on Grey, acrylic, 59 x 48.

Roll With It, Blue on Grey, acrylic, 59 x 48.

“The short bronc ride is adrenaline-filled and driven by deep instincts. It’s raw, unscripted, and subject to the laws of physics. This is interesting subject matter for painting from both the horse’s and the rider’s points of view. ROLL WITH IT, BLUE ON GREY is about keeping balance when the risk-filled ride takes you suddenly in unexpected directions, and about finding and fighting an unexpected threat. I wanted to isolate this change of direction, be specific enough for it to feel real as a heart-in-the-throat moment, but also removed enough from the narrative to encourage a personal recognition from the viewer.”

Legacy Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ, and Jackson, WY; Evergreen Fine Art, Evergreen, CO; Tough Luck Cowboy, Boulder, CO; sophybrown.fineartworld.com.

Mark Bowles

Mark Bowles, 5:30 and 6:30 pm, acrylic, 60 x 80.

5:30 and 6:30 pm, acrylic, 60 x 80.

“As a painter, I define the different elements of the landscape using line, color, form, and composition. In this particular painting, 5:30 AND 6:30 PM, I have brought in one more element: time. By isolating one section of the painting and having that represent a different time of day, I make note of how that affects the colors of the atmosphere and landscape, how they are very different and how they meld together. It is one painting with two moments in time.”

Anne Loucks, Glencoe, IL; Coda Gallery, Palm Desert, CA; Dean Day Gallery, Houston, TX; Mark Sublette Modern, Tucson, AZ; Pierce Modern, Paso Robles, CA; SFMOMA Artists Gallery, San Francisco, CA; The Brazilian Court Gallery, Palm Beach, FL; The Christopher Hill Gallery, St. Helena, CA; Vertical Peaks Fine Art, Jackson, WY; www.markbowles.com.

Mejo Okon

Mejo Okon, Ropin’ Steers, oil, 48 x 48.

Ropin’ Steers, oil, 48 x 48.

“Cloudless skies. Intense sun. Extraordinary heat. This is West Texas—my home, and the home of cowboys, horses, and cows. I am drawn to the details of today’s working cowboys and the livestock they manage. I travel to local ranches and small rodeos for inspiration. The cows in this painting caught my attention at a branding roundup. The close quarters of the pen and the feeling of anxiety struck an emotional chord with me. I wanted to hold on to that drama. Bold, graphic colors speak to me in depicting modern cowboys and their everyday lives.”


Mark Knudsen

Mark Knudsen, Sister Wives With Rumble Strip, acrylic, 24 x 36.

Sister Wives With Rumble Strip, acrylic, 24 x 36.

“This scene is near Colorado City, the polygamist outpost near the Arizona-Utah border, which inspired the title SISTER WIVES WITH RUMBLE STRIP. I like my work to be familiar and surprising at once: familiar in that it is the West that we know, but surprising in that it shows the beauty of a scene that isn’t usually thought of as a painting subject. The stretches of badlands that people ignore as they drive by on their way to somewhere grand are often my subjects. Discovering the beauty that lies hidden by our expectations, then pointing it out through the act of painting, is what engages me. I want my work to exist in the present. There is more than one way to be a contemporary artist.”

Phillips Gallery, Salt Lake City, UT; thomasknudsenart.com.

Karen Ahlgren

Karen Ahlgren, Soul Survivor, watercolor/gouache, 20 x 11.

Soul Survivor, watercolor/gouache, 20 x 11.

“Ever since I was little, I believed that animals were sentient beings with souls and purposes all their own. Then in high school, I went to Oaxaca, Mexico, as an exchange student. It was there that I truly embraced the magic of combining strong colors. It was a long while before I gave myself permission to portray wildlife in those vivid colors. To my delight, I discovered that this translation opened a door and facilitated a connection between animal subject and viewer. I was able to give these animals a voice in an often harried and callous world. I suspect that an integral part of a human’s soul depends on the survival of wild beings and their environment. Mine certainly does.”

Cobalt Fine Arts Gallery, Tubac, AZ; Wild Spirit Gallery, Pagosa Springs, CO; 
Due West Gallery, Santa Fe, NM; Raku Gallery, Jerome, AZ; La Veta Fine Art Gallery, La Veta, CO; Firedworks Gallery, Alamosa, CO; www.karenahlgren.com.

Bonnie Beauchamp Cooke

Bonnie Beauchamp Cooke, Butter, mixed media, 36 x 48.

Butter, mixed media, 36 x 48.

“As far back as I can remember, I have been passionate about horses. I got my first pony when I was 5 years old, so my passion for them runs deep. This piece is based on that same palomino pony, Butter. Although he is long gone, Butter will always hold a special place in my heart.

“Texture is a very important element of my paintings. I build texture with dirt, molding paste, and acrylics and then work in oil to create the dynamic play of light and the essence of the horse’s movement. I try to capture a split-second movement of the subject as well as the power, personality, and intensity of the animal as an individual. On every work I include a cross to symbolize my spiritual connection with nature and these animals.”

Huff Harrington Fine Art, Atlanta, GA; Madison Markets, Madison, GA; Avery Art, Washington, DC; www.beauchamp-cooke.com.

Judy Greenan

Judy Greenan, Homeward Bound, oil, 17 x 30.

Homeward Bound, oil, 17 x 30.

“My inspiration for HOMEWARD BOUND came from the excitement of capturing the essence and movement of the cowboy and horses heading home from a long day. It was an opportunity to explore values and edges, with my paint dancing back and forth between nailing the form of my subjects and expressing the movement of their journey. I love to use my brush to sweep across the canvas and to see how far I can push it without disrupting the composition and drawing. Flirting with peril, I risk losing the drawing for the excitement of the brushwork and movement from shape to shape. Creating a beautiful design and strong composition while exploring shape, color, value, line, texture, and edges always pushes and excites me as a painter.”

SmithKlein Gallery, Boulder, CO; Evergreen Fine Art, Evergreen, CO; Dean Day Gallery, Houston, TX; judygreenan.fineartworld.com.

Nocona Burgess

Nocona Burgess, Kicks Iron, acrylic, 30 x 20.

Kicks Iron, acrylic, 30 x 20.

“This portrait is of Onartake Maza (aka Kicks Iron or Kicks the Iron), a member of the Yanktonai Dakota, circa 1905. Growing up reading and looking at history books, I’ve always been attracted to old photos and their stories. Over the years I’ve been drawing and painting Native people; even my early drawings (at age 5) are of Native Americans. It’s truly been a lifelong passion. I feel like I am able to tell their stories again through my paintings by combining the subject with the negative spaces and bold brushwork. My painting style is inspired by the Bay Area artists of the 1950s and ’60s like James Weeks, Nathan Oliveira, and Wayne Thiebaud.”

Bonner David Galleries, Scottsdale, AZ; Legends Santa Fe, Santa Fe, NM; Rare Gallery of Fine Art, Jackson, WY; Four Winds Gallery, Pittsburgh, PA; Kiva Gallery, Uppsala, Sweden.

Paul Sheldon

Paul Sheldon, High Plains Buckaroos, acrylic, 31 x 38.

High Plains Buckaroos, acrylic, 31 x 38.

“This painting was inspired by an old photograph of roundup cowboys in 1880s Wyoming. I’m fascinated with old pictures of people and the way the subject matter complements my bright, contemporary style because of the antique Americana look. I am also interested in what their clothes, hats, and postures say about them. Hats are a pet peeve of mine. I appreciate western movies in which the hats are believable. I paint modern westerners for the same reason; they have always been inclined to show their style. I especially like to work with larger groups of people, kids, and animals because it gives me a chance to create a more rhythmic and storied painting.”

We were deeply saddened to hear of the sudden passing of Paul Sheldon on August 1, 2012. His memory will live on through the colorful paintings he created and shared.

Wilde Meyer Gallery, Tucson and Scottsdale, AZ; Cobalt Fine Arts, Tubac, AZ; www.psheldon.com.

Theresa Paden

Theresa Paden, Sunny, acrylic, 36 x 36.

Sunny, acrylic, 36 x 36.

“While painting in Paso Robles one day, a small herd of cattle became very interested in what I was doing. One adult was eyeing me suspiciously and kept the younger ones back. I did several sketches of him, then painted SUNNY when I got back to my studio. My goal was to capture the expression on his face, curiosity mixed with apprehension. For this painting I wanted to create an effect similar to watercolor. By letting the white undercoat show through, the colors look fresh, vibrant, and full of life. My hope is that when viewers see my art, they will be energized by the colors and textures, while feeling connected to the subjects.”

Xanadu Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ; www.TheresaPaden.com.


Featured in the August 2012 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
Southwest Art magazine August 2012 digital download
Southwest Art magazine August 2012 print edition
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