Six contemporary Western artists shed light on creating, collecting and painting horses, and it’s continued significance in today’s artistic landscape.
By L.A. Sokolowski
Contrasting plays of light and dark capture attention and imagination, whether they dance across Paint Horses or lend dimensional interest to fine-art paintings. Tobiano or overo, acrylics or oil, all can deliver images capable of seducing our hearts and igniting our imaginations.
Contemporary Western artists also chase light and pattern, in their efforts to portray and honor the people and animals of a historic yet ever-evolving American landscape.
What drives that inspiration? What spurs its curation and collection?
“Artists who are doing work worth collecting are looking at issues of the modern West and expressing them in a way that gets people talking. Land management, water rights, encroachment of development on pasture and farm lands—these are issues that important Western artists are tackling and should be heard,” said Rose G. Fredrick, curator of the Coors Western Art Exhibit and Sale at the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo in Denver, Colorado; the January 2018 exhibit marked her 21st show.
To Fredrick, who grew up riding horses and creating art before working for four years with Denver’s Carol Siple Gallery, it’s not the Western art that’s important: it’s the artists of the West.
“What they are doing, how they are using traditional and new media to convey thoughts about the West, that’s important,
she said. “The artist takes any subject—from horses to land—and searches for the deeper meaning and connection.”
Meet six contemporary Western artists on that search.
“I love the beauty of Paint Horses. As a kid, I remember Little Joe’s horse from Bonanza and thinking, ‘That is the coolest horse ever,’ ” said Jim, a signature member of Oil Painters of America whose bold, impressionistic cowboys, horses and bulls painted in oil on wood or linen have appeared on dozens of book jackets and at numerous shows, galleries, and institutions. His career started in illustration, under the mentorship of Gold Medal Award-winning Ballantine Books illustrator Murray Tinkelman.
“I always use real cowboys,” said the Prix de West and two-time National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum Great American Cowboy Award winner; Tim’s work has appeared on more than 300 magazine covers during his career, and in 2011, he was named Best Living Western Painter by True West magazine.
“More often than not, Paints figure into my work. Their wonderful variety allows a splash of color and character, to add points of interest to attract a viewer’s eye,” Peggy said.
“Western art is still important because the West is still here,” Sarah said. “I want to affirm that horses, the West and life in general are wonderful. Horses are valuable, not just for their role in history or what they do for us now as friends, therapists and athletic partners, but also, if you will, for their ‘horse-ness.’ The Western landscape needs to be valued for what it is and used in ways best suited to it, not pushed to conform to other molds or regions. Those who live close to the land and work closely with horses have the best read on how to meet those needs.”
“The inspiration I draw from abstract expressionism is matched by my reverence for painters devoted to realism. My most recent body of work attempts to meld the two genres—non-objective and representational art—through the forms of horses against emotive, abstract grounds,” Karen explained.
“Opposites, like hard and soft light playing off a coat pattern, are part of my visual approach to composition, and to finding and creating balance. My intent is to capture the balance that exists at the intersection of opposite elements and to expose underlying similarities in things perceived as fundamentally different. I’m driven by the process of contrast, and by pushing value, color and texture in realistic settings,” Jill said.
This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Spring 2018 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join.