Col­lec­tor’s Fo­cus: Art of the Cow­boy

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

Bill Pick­ett (1870-1932) left school in the fifth grade to work on a ranch. His father had been a slave and his mother was Chero­kee. He is said to have in­vented bull-dog­ging, wrestling a steer to the ground, of­ten bit­ing the steer on its lip to suc­ceed. The dis­play was a rodeo event and not one that oc­curred in the daily life of the work­ing cow­boy. Get­ting into rodeos was of­ten dif­fi­cult for a black cow­boy so he em­pha­sized his mother’s Chero­kee her­itage to be al­lowed to com­pete. Forty years af­ter his death from be­ing kicked in the head by a horse, Pick­ett was the first black rider in­ducted into the Na­tional Rodeo Hall of Fame. To­day, the Bill Pick­ett In­vi­ta­tional Rodeo “cel­e­brates and hon­ors black cow­boys and cow­girls and their con­tri­bu­tions to build­ing the West.”

Rodeos be­gan as com­pe­ti­tions among cow­boys who wanted to show off their skills. The first for­mal rodeo com­pe­ti­tion was held in Cheyenne, Wyoming, in 1872 and the first pro­fes­sional rodeo was in Prescott, Ari­zona, in 1888.

The horse­man­ship on dis­play in the rodeos has al­ways been a pop­u­lar sub­ject for artists. Bob Coronato makes paint­ings and etch­ings of the ad­ven­tures of cow­boy life. An irony of his etch­ings is that the rugged­ness of cow­boy life is recorded on del­i­cate Ja­panese rice pa­per in a tech­nique called chine-collé. The rice pa­per is cut to the size of the im­age, and the back is coated with glue. The rice pa­per and a sheet of water­color pa­per are run through the press, bond­ing the two kinds of pa­per and print­ing the inked im­age on the rice pa­per.

Coronato says, “In tiny hid­den cor­ners of our coun­try, you can still find places un­touched by time. There are ranches that gather on horse­back 2,000 to 3,000 head of cows, across hun­dreds of miles of fence­less land­scape. Hulett, Wyoming, is one of these hid­den trea­sures. Twenty years ago I at­tended Otis/ Par­sons Art in­sti­tute in Los An­ge­les, and upon grad­u­a­tion, I moved to a town of 408 peo­ple called Hulett, to find the West I was look­ing for…the free­dom of the West, and the wide open spa­ces have be­come a sym­bol of our great coun­try. As our lives be­come more reg­i­mented and the rules be­come more nu­mer­ous, we long for those places of free­dom.”

Curt Matt­son cap­tures the en­ergy of cow­boy life in clay which he casts in bronze. One of his col­lec­tors has said he is “a stick­ler for ac­cu­racy.” He first saw his work at a

Quest for the West ex­hi­bi­tion at the Eit­eljorg Mu­seum in In­di­anapo­lis, where he saw that ac­cu­racy for him­self. Matt­son says, “Few of us will ever know what it is like to be on horse­back in [a] coun­try that swal­lows you up with its spite of the chal­lenges he faces to­day, the bucka­roo un­der­stands that what he does has an im­por­tant role in Amer­ica’s fu­ture. He is an Amer­i­can icon that rep­re­sents what is good in our great coun­try. My art cel­e­brates this life­style.”

He pro­vides sto­ries about his sculp­tures and for Too Close for Com­fort he writes, “The cow­boy roped the steer’s horns then flipped the rope around the steer’s hip and rides by the steer dal­lied around the sad­dle horn. The re­sult is that the steer trips and the wind is knocked out of him. There were then two pos­si­ble out­comes. Ei­ther the steer would

get up and be man­age­able or he would get up and be re­ally mad. It is the lat­ter that has taken place here, and the steer has run back up the rope and charged the cow­boy and his horse. The cow­boy has jerked his horse up and out of the way just in the nick of time. The mad steer just misses his tar­get.” In his scrupu­lous ac­cu­racy Matt­son also pro­vides in­for­ma­tion of the type of sad­dle he de­picts as well as the cow­boy’s re­galia.

Ed Mell was an art di­rec­tor in New York and moved into il­lus­tra­tion be­fore teach­ing two sum­mers on the Hopi reser­va­tion con­vinced him to re­turn to his home­town of Phoenix. “Spend­ing months in that beauty right af­ter be­ing in the city was the cat­a­lyst that changed my artis­tic di­rec­tion,” he says.

In his paint­ings and sculp­ture, Mell re­duces the de­tail of his sub­jects to its essence. In his sculp­ture Bull Rider, bull and rider be­come one en­er­getic form. He pushes both his paint­ings and his sculp­ture and re­marks, “See­ing the real thing has much more im­pact than a pho­to­graphic rep­re­sen­ta­tion of na­ture, so in or­der to du­pli­cate na­ture, I like to push it a lit­tle fur­ther and bring back some of the im­pact that na­ture has in real life.”

In the pages of this spe­cial sec­tion, col­lec­tors will find cow­boy-re­lated art­work from the fore­most gal­leries, mu­se­ums and artists across the coun­try.

Pam Bunch of Lee-bunch Stu­dio Gallery, hav­ing deep Texas roots, in­cor­po­rates the vast West Texas land­scape into her paint­ings, which de­pict her ranch­ing her­itage and the cow­boy life. “Too many of our ranch­ing com­mu­ni­ties seem to be run­ning out of cow­boys,” says Bunch. To keep this im­por­tant part of our his­tory alive, Bunch in­cor­po­rates this as­pect into her art in ei­ther oil or water­color. Her pas­sion is to cap­ture the spirit of the sub­ject mat­ter and to con­vey that story to the viewer in such a way that they can step back to that place or time.

The Cal­gary Vic­tory Stam­pede will con­tinue to cap­ture the mar­vels of the past in 2019, when it marks the 100th an­niver­sary of the event. Ac­cord­ing to the C.M. Rus­sell Mu­seum, this his­toric event billed it­self as a world cham­pi­onship fron­tier con­test and vic­tory cel­e­bra­tion that marked the end of the Great War. Next sum­mer, the C.M. Rus­sell Mu­seum cel­e­brates this mo­men­tous event

with Re­turn to Cal­gary: C.M. Rus­sell and the 1919 Vic­tory Stam­pede. The Stam­pede was em­braced city­wide by busi­nesses and res­i­dents alike and be­came a means through which to de­liver the West and its cow­boys, broncs, rop­ers and steer wrestlers to au­di­ences across west­ern Canada and the Pa­cific North­west.

“I didn’t find out till I was an adult that one of my grand­fa­thers was a ma­jor West­ern movie fan,” says artist Joann Per­alta. “He fol­lowed William Hart and Gene Autry movies amongst oth­ers. I never knew him, but now I [un­der­stand] that my love of Westerns and the cow­boy was no mere co­in­ci­dence. It was in my blood…i be­lieve the cow­boy spirit is pride in Amer­i­can val­ues and a way of life. I also take pride that my her­itage helped in­spire the cow­boy, though it be­came a brand all its own—i love it all,” she says.

Artist Den Schofield has a pas­sion for West­ern cul­ture as well. Since his child­hood, Schofield has dreamed of de­pict­ing dra­matic char­ac­ters and events, his work pri­mar­ily fo­cus­ing on 19th-cen­tury sub­jects. He has trav­eled ex­ten­sively through­out the coun­try, fa­mil­iar­iz­ing him­self with sprawl­ing land­scapes and wide open spa­ces.

“My bronc rid­ers are em­blem­atic of the cow­boy of the Old West and the most ba­sic of the cow­boy ex­pe­ri­ence,” says KC Spink.

“A man, a rope, and a horse.” His oil Ready to Launch cap­tures the mo­tion of a buck­ing horse, with clearly de­fined mus­cu­la­ture ev­i­dent in the equine beast.

A cow­girl from the mo­ment she knew they ex­isted, and long be­fore she ever rode a horse, Rush Cole be­gan her art ca­reer by falling eter­nally in love with ev­ery­thing equine. From there, the jump to ev­ery­thing “West­ern” was a nat­u­ral one for the Santa Fe-based artist. Fo­cus­ing first on the in­ten­sity of her sub­jects, she then adds per­ti­nent de­tails—the pre­cise crease of a West­ern hat, an ac­cu­rate honda on a fly­ing loop, the gleam of sil­ver con­chos adorn­ing a breast col­lar. Cole was in­vited by Priefert Rodeo & Ranch Equip­ment, a spon­sor of the Women’s Pro­fes­sional Rodeo As­so­ci­a­tion, to pro­vide art­work for the WPRA’S World Fi­nals in 2019.

The bronzes crafted by sculp­tor Bill Ne­beker strive to pro­duce an au­then­tic por­trayal of the Amer­i­can West. De­scrib­ing his piece Hare-raisin’ Ride, which de­picts a cow­boy on horse­back above a group of jump­ing hares, Ne­beker says, “One of the

rea­sons I love West­ern art [is] be­cause it usu­ally tells a story. Some­times the sto­ries are dra­matic or ac­tion-filled, some­times emo­tional, serene and of­ten hu­mor­ous. Char­lie Rus­sell and Ge­orge Phip­pen’s paint­ings and sculp­tures showed scenes of the hu­mor­ous side of the West. I wanted this bronze sculp­ture to be a link to that long tra­di­tion in our his­tory of hu­mor in West­ern art.”

“I paint what I love, and I’m so blessed to be able to be in the mid­dle of what I love ev­ery day,” says Amanda Cowan. “One of my fa­vorite things is to see and paint the re­la­tion­ships be­tween an­i­mals and peo­ple. The ranch­ing life­style would be so dif­fer­ent and sad with­out the horses and dogs that work with us. They are my fa­vorite part of this life.”

In­spi­ra­tion for the sub­ject mat­ter in Les Le­fevre’s art comes from truly liv­ing the West­ern life­style. “I try to ride reg­u­larly and work on ranches as much as time al­lows me and love be­ing around horses. I am in­spired by not only the mod­ern ranch­ers but the cow­boys and In­di­ans who were here 150 years ago. I love the his­tor­i­cal as­pect of the West,” says Le­fevre, who lives in Dubois, Wyoming, a West­ern town that has re­mained rel­a­tively un­touched over the years. Le­fevre ad­vises col­lec­tors to “do more than just look at a

paint­ing with your eyes. They are the tools to see a paint­ing, but our imag­i­na­tions al­low us to re­ally en­joy it. Buy what moves you.”

“Cow­boys are a sym­bol of rugged, tough Amer­i­cans. They will al­ways be some­thing that is big­ger than life to me,” says Steve Boaldin, who works in a va­ri­ety of medi­ums in­clud­ing oil, graphite, water­color and col­ored pen­cil. “I paint what I know, the con­tem­po­rary cow­boy in ac­tion. On the ranch, or in [rodeo], it all ties to­gether. This has been my pas­sion most of my life and will al­ways be my mo­ti­va­tion for good au­then­tic art,” Boaldin says.

Na­tive Texan artist Su­san Tem­ple Neu­mann’s de­sire to cap­ture the spirit of the South­west and its his­tory fed her pas­sion for paint­ing the West. A life­long fas­ci­na­tion

with cow­boys, horses, Na­tive Amer­i­cans and wildlife pro­vides the in­spi­ra­tion for her work, along with her West­ern trav­els. Neu­mann’s art has re­ceived many awards over the years in­clud­ing Best of Show in the 2018 Amer­i­can Plains Artists ex­hi­bi­tion, and her work has been dis­played in ju­ried gallery shows and mu­se­ums across the coun­try.

Jane Chapin’s oils Foot­loose and Bring­ing ‘Em In will be avail­able at the 2019 Coors West­ern Art Ex­hibit & Sale in Den­ver, Colorado. “This is a ju­nior bar­rel race un­der 12 years old. She is per­fectly stuck to her horse at full speed head­ing for the fin­ish de­spite the fact that her foot is no longer in the stir­rup. I love the way chil­dren are brought up in this cul­ture that re­spects tra­di­tion, ath­leti­cism and re­spect for the an­i­mals,” she says of Foot­loose. Bring­ing ‘Em In will be a part of the silent auc­tion at the Coors show.

“I have al­ways been hum­bled by the im­ages of the cow­boy and the [part] they played in our his­tory,” says Pat Ses­sions. “The

paint­ing of the horse has be­come a pas­sion for me.” Self-taught, Ses­sions has been paint­ing for 12 years and now takes classes to con­tinue hon­ing her craft.

At one point, Sam Thiewes thought he would never paint West­ern-style art­work. “Fa­mous last words!” he says. Thiewes ex­plains that while at­tend­ing art shows in Den­ver, he “had a chance to meet a num­ber of real cow­girls. I re­al­ized that there were not a lot of artists telling their sto­ries.” He even­tu­ally be­gan paint­ing cow­boys and ranch life as well, want­ing to tell a more com­plete story of this his­toric time pe­riod. “It is my hope that through my paint­ings I can doc­u­ment some of this his­tory. I will al­ways be thank­ful for my friends who have al­lowed me to share a lit­tle of their lives.”

Janeil An­der­son gets in­spi­ra­tion for her work from liv­ing on a work­ing cat­tle ranch in South­ern New Mex­ico. Many of An­der­son’s paint­ings are the life of the work­ing cow­boy be­hind the scenes of life on the ranch. An­der­son is a mem­ber of Amer­i­can Women Artists.

“I am in­spired by scenes that make me won­der what led to that mo­ment and what hap­pens next. I en­cour­age peo­ple to buy art they love…that en­sures they will never be dis­ap­pointed,” says Andy Thomas. His piece Hot Time in Ft. Ben­son - A True Story is a “demon­stra­tion of the power of a moun­tain how­itzer to im­press the In­di­ans [which] seemed a clever move to their agent. That would make the meet­ing more pro­duc­tive. No need to un­pack it, the back of the mule would work. The mule did not agree.” The paint­ing, avail­able for pur­chase, is based on a true story.

Texas-based artist Sonya Ter­pen­ing is in­spired by the world around her and comes from a her­itage of pi­o­neers. “My fam­ily sto­ries tell of land runs, wagon trains, sod houses, farm­ing and ranch­ is this pi­o­neer­ing/ ranch­ing back­ground that I ad­mire and want to cap­ture and share in my art,” Ter­pen­ing says. “Amer­ica has a col­or­ful his­tory, some grand and some very sad, but it is a unique his­tory that should never be for­got­ten. So, I paint the sto­ries of my fam­ily and the sto­ries that oth­ers tell me about their his­tory. I paint the sim­ple quiet mo­ments that are com­mon to all of us. In do­ing so I have found that some­times art can say things that words can­not.”

The Great Amer­i­can West Gallery show­cases the art­work of Olaf Wieghorst and Kyle Polzin. Weary Trav­eler, an oil by Polzin, de­picts a worn-out sad­dle and stir­rups

bronze,wild and wooly,’s dan­ger­ous at both ends and un­com­fort­able in the mid­dle!, orig­i­nal chine-collé etch­ing, ed. of 95, 10¾ x 127/8", by Bob Coronato.

1. Medicine Man Gallery, Bull Rider, ed. 45, 11¼ x 4½ x 12", by Ed Mell.2. Rogues Gallery,

3. Bill Ne­beker, Hare-raisin’ Ride, bronze, 23 x 12 x 9" 4. Nor­man Film Man­u­fac­tur­ing Com­pany, Poster for “The Bull-dog­ger”, star­ring Bill Pick­ett, 1921 5. Andy Thomas, Hot Time in Ft. Ben­ton - A True Story, oil on linen, 26 x 46" 6. Andy Thomas, The Gang’s Set­tle­ment, oil on linen, 28 x 44" 7. Brian Lebel’s Old West Show & Auc­tion, The Hun­gry Sign, oil on board, 20 x 34”, by Joe Beeler (1931-2006).




8. Curt Matt­son, Too Close for Com­fort, bronze, ed. of 9, 31½ x 20¼ x 13¼" 9. Brian Lebel’s Old West Show & Auc­tion, Horse Ranch, oil on can­vas,28 x 38", by Olaf Wieghorst (1899-1988). 10. Bill Ne­beker, Born to Run, bronze, 16 x 18 x 8" 11. Amanda Cowan, Tak­ing a Breather, oil on can­vas, 8 x 10" 12. Trail­side Gal­leries, Long Trot, acrylic, 18 x 22½", by Mikel Don­ahue. 12




13. C.M. Rus­sell Mu­seum, Jumped, 1914, oil on can­vas, 30 x 48", by Charles M. Rus­sell (1864-1926). Petrie Col­lec­tion, Den­ver, Colorado. 14. Bill Ne­beker, Rim­rock Res­cue, bronze, 27 x 20 x 11" 15. Joann Per­alta, Henry Dar­row as Mano­lito Mon­toya, oil on linen can­vas, 24 x 18"16. An ex­te­rior view of the C.M. Rus­sell Mu­seum. 17. Joann Per­alta, West­ern Sky, oil on linen can­vas, 26 x 42" 18. Great Amer­i­can West Gallery, Quit­ting the Herd, oil, 20 x 24", by Olaf Wieghorst (1899-1988). 19. KC Spink, Ready to Launch, oil, 16 x 12" 16




20. Great Amer­i­can West Gallery, Weary Trav­eler, oil, 28 x 44", by Kyle Polzin. 21. Sonya Ter­pen­ing, Quit­tin’ Time, oil on linen, 30 x 24" 22. Sonya Ter­pen­ing, C’mon, Sup­per’s Wait­ing, oil on linen, 30 x 40" 23. Sonya Ter­pen­ing, Waitin’ on the Shade, oil on linen, 16 x 20" 24. Janeil An­der­son, Where Have You Been All My Life?, oil, 30 x 24" 25. Steve Boaldin, All in a Day’s Work, oil, 20 x 16" 26. Jane Chapin, Bring­ing ‘Em In, oil on linen, 9 x 12"

27. Jane Chapin, Foot­loose, oil on linen, 24 x 30" 28. Steve Boaldin, Lookin’ for Two, oil, 24 x 30" 29. Den Schofield, Trail Boss, oil on can­vas, 8 x 10" 30. Lee-bunch Stu­dio Gallery, Range Talk, oil, 20 x 16", by Pam Bunch. 31. Sam Thiewes, Ram­rod, oil, 18 x 24" 32. Les Le­fevre, Father Daugh­ter Day, oil on can­vas, 24 x 36" 33. Pat Ses­sions, Race for the Barn, oil on can­vas, 20 x 24" 34. Steve Boaldin, Lethal Weapon, oil, 24 x 48" 35. Sam Thiewes, Night Check Zapp, oil, 16 x 20" 36. Pat Ses­sions, Dusty Ride, oil, 16 x 20" 37. Den Schofield, The Tex­ian, oil on can­vas, 8 x 10”

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