Col­lec­tor’s Fo­cus: Western Sculp­ture

Western Art Collector - - CONTENTS - By John O’hern

Sculp­ture of the peo­ple and an­i­mals of the Amer­i­can West was enor­mously pop­u­lar at the turn of the last cen­tury. There was a sense of nos­tal­gia as artists and the gen­eral pub­lic thought the Na­tive Amer­i­can cul­ture was dy­ing out and the romantic life of the cow­boy was about to be­come a thing of the past. Fred­eric Rem­ing­ton (1861-1909), who set the stan­dard for de­pict­ing Western fig­ures, said, in 1907, “My West passed ut­terly out of ex­is­tence so long ago as if to make it merely a dream. It put on its hat, took up its blan­kets and marched off the board; the cur­tain came down and a new act was in progress.”

An­i­mals, such as the bi­son, had been hunted nearly to ex­tinc­tion. Once num­ber­ing in the tens of mil­lions, they were hunted for food and cloth­ing by Na­tive peo­ples and then slaugh­tered by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment in an ef­fort to con­trol the Na­tive pop­u­la­tion.

A cen­tury later, Na­tive cul­ture per­sists and adapts with about 500,000 bi­son back on the plains, and cow­boys con­tinue to herd cat­tle. The tra­di­tion of Rem­ing­ton and Rus­sell is con­tin­ued by some sculp­tors while oth­ers use new ma­te­ri­als and tech­niques of in­ter­pre­ta­tions based on the pow­er­ful artis­tic move­ments of the 20th cen­tury. Na­tive artists express their tra­di­tions in dif­fer­ent ma­te­ri­als as well.

Paul Moore’s scrupu­lously ac­cu­rate and dra­matic sculp­tures range from his Ok­la­homa Cen­ten­nial Land Run Mon­u­ment with bronze fig­ures one and a half times life­size and ex­tend­ing the length of a foot­ball field, to intimate ta­ble top bronzes. Rem­ing­ton’s famed The Bronco Buster, 1895, de­picts a nearly syn­chro­nous re­la­tion­ship be­tween an un­tamed horse and his rider.

In Moore’s sculp­ture, The Wreck, the re­la­tion­ship of horse and rider has split. The horse is in the air and the rider, with his boot still stuck in the stir­rup, lies on the ground shield­ing his head with his arm.

Ed Mell wanted to de­sign cars when he was a boy. He never did de­sign cars but now owns a col­lec­tion of clas­sics. His feel­ing for de­sign and his com­mand of it bring a strong modernist look to his work. He works from na­ture but says, “I like to push it a lit­tle fur­ther and bring back some of the im­pact that na­ture has in real life.” His bronze sculp­ture, Dig­gin’ In, re­sem­bles a frozen,

styl­ized bolt of light­ning as the rider strug­gles to con­trol his bronc.

Jamie Burnes uses found and scouted ma­te­ri­als to express the forms, strength and per­son­al­i­ties of an­i­mals—as well as the whimsy of their maker. Com­bin­ing nat­u­ral and man­made ma­te­ri­als, he em­pha­sizes our con­nec­tion to the nat­u­ral world. In Bear Study, 2013, wood logs express the core en­ergy of the bear and welded-steel forms express the po­ten­tially ex­plo­sive strength of his haunches and forelegs. The tilt of its head ex­presses an al­most play­ful cu­rios­ity.

Dan Fri­day is a Lummi glass­maker who hon­ors the tra­di­tions of his Puget Sound cul­tural her­itage. He says, “I typ­i­cally work with sim­ple themes and forms, and of­ten em­ploy sub­tle sil­hou­ettes when mak­ing my totems. It is a plea­sure see­ing inan­i­mate ob­jects tak­ing on a life of their own.” His bear forms of­ten in­cor­po­rate the an­cient tech­niques of Vene­tian glass mak­ers he learned through his work with some of the great con­tem­po­rary glass mak­ers in the Amer­i­can North­west. Bears are prom­i­nent in the myths and rit­u­als of many tribes. His totem, Rain­bow Bear, re­calls the clay Zuni fetish sculp­tures with a line be­gin­ning at the mouth, called the heart­line, and sym­bolic of spirit and life.

In the pages of this spe­cial col­lec­tor’s fo­cus, read­ers will find Western sculp­ture from some of the finest artists in the coun­try, as well as in­for­ma­tion on the galleries and mu­se­ums that rep­re­sent them.

Bronze sculp­tor Bill Ne­beker has been a mem­ber of the Cow­boy Artists of Amer­ica since 1978 and his work is in­spired by the his­toric Amer­i­can West along with con­tem­po­rary ranch life. He ex­plains that his sculp­ture Dou­ble Trou­ble “de­picts a breed of cow­boy I ad­mire greatly. His job is to gather up and lead in wild rene­gade steers or mav­er­ick cows. Mav­er­ick cows have not been caught or branded. Rene­gade steers have a brand and ear­marks which show he was caught, but es­caped years ago and grew wild and very large...i sculpted this, to tell the story of these spe­cial friends of mine who cap­ture these wild bovines that roam rugged moun­tains and brush coun­try of the South­west.”

In Charles M. Rus­sell: The Women in

His Life and Art, the C.M. Rus­sell Mu­seum in Great Falls, Mon­tana, draws at­ten­tion to the women who in­flu­enced the artist and ex­plores how he por­trayed them in his paint­ing and sculp­ture. Ex­hi­bi­tion cu­ra­tor Emily Wil­son de­scribes, “In both Weapons of the Weak and Moun­tain Mother, Rus­sell an­thro­po­mor­phizes the wildlife sub­jects, play­ing to the uni­ver­sal in­stinct of a mother to pro­tect her young. The mod­els from which these bronzes were made were cre­ated from wax, clay, and mixed me­dia; the branches them­selves were bronzed from pieces of drift­wood Rus­sell picked up from the shore of his cabin on Lake Mcdon­ald in Glacier Na­tional Park.” The ex­hi­bi­tion re­mains on view at the mu­seum through Septem­ber 30 be­fore mov­ing on to Western Spirit: Scotts­dale’s Mu­seum of the West in Ari­zona.

Joe Ca­jero Sr. of Ca­jero Fine Arts says his work One­ness was in­spired by a pre­sen­ta­tion from philoso­pher and mo­ti­va­tional speaker Wayne Dyer. The sculp­ture, he says, “is my sim­ple trans­la­tion of a quote I heard in dur­ing pre­sen­ta­tion, given by Je­sus in his con­ver­sa­tion with God. Je­sus asks, ‘God may I know You, as I knew You, even be­fore my be­gin­ning.’

This piece was in­spired and cre­ated from the in­ter­nal di­a­logue that took place dur­ing the ex­plo­ration of that ask­ing.” Ca­jero was com­mis­sioned to cre­ate the piece for Ho­tel Chaco in Al­bu­querque, New Mex­ico.

De­selms Fine Art rep­re­sents the sculp­ture of Chris Navarro, who says about his 20% Chance of Flur­ries, “For me, this im­age of a cow­boy on a horse sav­ing a young calf em­bod­ies the test of en­durance that highlights the best qual­i­ties of the men who live in the West. They face hard con­di­tions and take life as it comes.”

“My in­spi­ra­tion to cre­ate wildlife art is my love of an­i­mals,” says Texas-based sculp­tor Dou­glas B. Clark. “I en­joy watch­ing what makes each an­i­mal unique and try­ing to cap­ture that. My goal as an artist is to share that love through my art.”

Raymond Gibby of Gibby Bronze sees a com­mon mes­sage with his bronze works Restora­tion and Re­turn of the White Buf­falo. “The mov­ing from very loose and un­de­fined to de­tailed and re­al­is­tic rep­re­sents how the buf­falo as a species were al­most lost en­tirely and how the have jour­neyed to the point of re­gain­ing stronghold­s of pop­u­la­tion again,” Gibby says of Restora­tion.“the Re­turn of the White Buf­falo fol­lows a sim­i­lar theme but this has to do more with the char­ac­ter of hu­man­ity. When there are hu­mans present

303 East 17th Street Cheyenne WY 82001 307.432.0606 de­selm­[email protected]

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1. Medicine Man Gallery, Dig­gin’ In, 2012, ed. 18, bronze,13½ x 22¼ x 4¼", by Ed Mell. 2. Ger­ald Peters Gallery, Bear Study, 2013, steel,133/8 x 217/8 x 10½", by Jamie Burnes. 3. Blue Rain Gallery, Rain­bow Bear, fur­nace-sculpted glass, 7 x 13½ x 3", by Dan Fri­day. 4. Mclarry Fine Art, The Wreck, bronze, ed. 15, 22 x 27¾ x 14½", by Paul Moore.

5. Bill Ne­beker, Dou­ble Trou­ble, bronze, 29 x 27 x 16" 6. Bill Ne­beker, Three Ami­gos, bronze, 18 x 18 x 8" 7. Bill Ne­beker, Kiowa Iron Tipped Medicine Ar­rows, bronze, 13 x 12 x 15" 8. C.M. Rus­sell Mu­seum, Moun­tain Mother, modeled 1924, cast ca. 1928, bronze, 6½ x 13¾ x 5", by Charles M. Rus­sell (1864-1926). Petrie Col­lec­tion, Den­ver, Colorado. 9. Su­san Kliewer, Crow Fair Shawl Dancer, bronze, 25 x 16 x 9"

10. C.M. Rus­sell Mu­seum, Weapons of the Weak, modeled 1921, cast ca. 1922-28, bronze, 5¾ x 57/8 x 5½", by Charles M. Rus­sell (1864-1926). Petrie Col­lec­tion, Den­ver, Colorado. 11. Su­san Kliewer, Heal­ing Dress Dancer, bronze, 25 x 10 x 7½" 12. Richard Lee Tucker, Jack, bronze, 21 x 24 x 13" 13. Raymond Gibby, Restora­tion, ed. of 20, bronze, 9 x 32 x 10" 14. Joe Ca­jero Sr., One­ness, bronze, mon­u­men­tal

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