Reimagining the West
In 2015, Lee Alban was invited to participate in the Traveling the West Art Show & Sale directed by Ken Featherstone and held at Southwest Gallery in Dallas, Texas. While not a Western artist per se, Alban has painted many steam trains and diners over the years so his work fit the theme. Needing to create pieces for the show, Alban dipped into his catalog of landscape photographs he had taken on trips out West to landmarks such as Monument Valley and Yosemite.
“I wanted to put figures in my landscapes, so I researched the Library of Congress for historic images,” says Alban. “Nothing seemed to fit naturally into the landscapes, so I had an idea—why not paint a vintage photo as Trompe l’Oeil and make it look like a photograph had been taped onto the landscape painting.” Alban’s paintings, which begin with him selecting the landscape and then adding the photograph to the scene, are designed to be one seamless image where the taped photo looks as if it was once in that place or time. “Part of the theme is that I’m returning these people to the land, and of course they don’t occupy that land now because they’ve passed on,” Alban elaborates. “You can almost imagine that they were there, and, indeed, they really were there, perhaps. That’s how I come up with the elements to use.”
One of Alban’s newest paintings in the series, Be Known By the Tracks You Leave, depicts a shadow-filled Monument Valley with Native Americans on horseback incorporated in through the photo. “I have an acquaintance who is a photographer, who does photo journeys
to places, but he also occasionally takes a trip out West,” says Alban. “He was doing a photoshoot in Monument Valley and does an exceptional job…he gets permits and arranges for a group of 10 photographers to go down into areas of Monument Valley that are restricted areas and meet the Navajos who live on the desert floor.”
Other works, such as Teach Me Renewal as the Seed That Rises in the Spring and Let Me Learn the Lessons That You Have Hidden Under Every Rock and Leaf, are from various locales throughout Arizona, including the Apache Trail in the Superstition Mountains. These works, too, are an interpretation of what life must have been like in the days of the Old West.
Alban’s newest paintings in the series will be released this summer to galleries representing the artist in California, Arizona, Oklahoma and Texas.
Be Known By the Tracks You Leave, oil on panel,
24 x 30"
Teach Me Renewal as the Seed That Rises in the Spring, oil on panel, 18 x 24"
Let Me Learn the Lessons That You Have Hidden Under Every Rock and Leaf,
oil on panel, 18 x 24"