Collector’s Focus: Roaming the West
President Theodore Roosevelt and his distant cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt were ardent conservationists. In 1903, Teddy Roosevelt went camping alone with the great John Muir in Yosemite, roughing it as a Rough Rider would. In 1937, FDR visited Yellowstone in the back of an open touring car unable to hike because of the crippling effects of polio. Later, he said in a speech, “I see an America whose rivers and valleys and lakes are protected as the rightful heritage of the people.”
The Spanish introduced horses to the West nearly 10,000 years after their extinction in the last Ice Age. They became the ubiquitous mode of transportation for Native peoples and settlers alike. Horses also pulled wagons, transporting settlers across the plains and carrying produce to market. Hyrum Joe (Navajo) paints the historical domestic and ceremonial life of his people, calling it “both an obligation and a privilege. It’s an honor to share their stories, the images that come to me in dreams and from my participation in traditional rituals, and to create modern interpretations of times gone by.”
Watermelon Day at the Trading Post depicts both ritual and celebration—goods successfully traded and a reward enjoyed completely.
Fred Fellows grew up in Oklahoma, loved ranch life and, in part of his career, traded paintings for food and supplies. His grand uncle rode in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and he, himself, is today the longest standing member of the Cowboy Artists of America. He is steeped in the life of the West and knows both its grit and humor. To insure the accuracy of his paintings and sculpture he has a large library and a collection of cowboy gear and Plains Indian artifacts.
Winning is Everything shows both. The driver of a 1920s runabout with a pickup body risks it all as he flies across the desert, saddle and fence-mending tools flying, to try to beat his race competitor who is on horseback. It’s not clear who’s going to win.
Robert Laduke is no stranger to roaming the West. He recalls trips in the family Cadillac trailing an Airstream, a common theme in his paintings. The nostalgic images of 1930s and ’40s travel are colorful, like his collection of steel toys, but they seem to have another side. “I enjoy creating narratives with multiple meanings in my work,” he says. “I imagine that, a certain dark but humorous tone underlies my cartoon-like illustrative surfaces. Although realism often dominates my work visually, it is in fact merely providing a frame of reference to a metaphoric end.”
Forest invites interpretation which Laduke encourages us to do. The vistas recall the flatness and diminished perspective of Japanese woodblock prints. The generic mountain shape recalls the outline of the iconic Mount Fuji.
The design on the side of the trailer recalls the complementarity of Yin and Yang. The bridge is a representation of the beautiful structural stonework built by the workers of the Civilian Conservation Corps established by FDR as part of the “New Deal” in 1933. It employed 2.5 million men over its nine-year run. Roaming the West is different than it was in Roosevelt’s time. Journalist Charles Kuralt observed, “Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything.” Artists show us a different way.
This special section celebrates the spirit of freedom to travel and appreciate the West and its natural beauty.
Darcie Peet began “roaming the West” at 5, when she threw snowballs with her dad in Rock Mountain National Park. Since then, seeing adventure and painting subject matter has taken her to numberous destinations across the West. Peet describes her piece Simply Sunrise as “a different twist on iconic Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, Colorado, one very frigid October morning as I waited for the sun to rise to capture this fleeting light. Pikes Peak has been the backdrop for college years; later home for my dad; and summers as a camp wrangler spent on the west side of Pikes Peak where it rises as a solitary, singular peak seen for miles.”
Fred Fellows, Winning Is Everything, oil on board, 20 x 37". Courtesy Trailside Galleries, Scottsdale, AZ, and Jackson Hole, WY.
Darcie Peet, Simply Sunrise, oil, 24 x 48"