Embrace the Struggle: The Artwork of Chris Navarro
A new Phippen Museum exhibition explores the sculptures of Chris Navarro and how the artist’s experiences have influenced his work.
There are two things you need to become a good bull rider and a good artist: confidence and belief. This is the ideology of bronze sculptor and rider Chris Navarro, whose exhilarating, yet dangerous background in rodeo has shaped the way he creates his artwork. This is the central theme of his exhibition at the Phippen Museum, Embrace the Struggle: The Artwork of Chris Navarro, which runs from December 1 through April 21, 2019.
Navarro, who became fascinated with horses at a young age, has been through the ringer in terms of wrecks and collisions as a rodeo rider. One of his bronzes, Heck of a Wreck, is bursting with energy and momentum as a cowboy on horseback clashes with a large bull, a situation Navarro says he knows all too well, having been in a number of accidents himself—the most recent having occurred just four years ago.
“It helps if you’ve actually experienced it, so it gives you authenticity for one thing,” Navarro says of his horse and rider sculptures.
Wyoming Cowboy, another horse and rider piece, is the official logo for the University of Wyoming and the symbol on the state license plate, Navarro explains.
The Western artist, who has homes in both Wyoming and Arizona, has a vast repertoire of work spanning a variety of subject matter including wildlife, sailboats, locomotives and
Native American subjects, as well as massive, larger-than-life sculptures. Essence of Rex, for example, is a T-rex measuring 13 by 28 by 7 feet. “I just want to be excited about the subject matter,” says Navarro.
His exhibition, held in the museum’s James Gallery, will showcase more than 30 of his smaller works as well as photographs of his bronze monuments, allowing visitors to explore the artist’s unbridled creativity. “I love making stuff with my hands...you get to make a living with your passion,” he says. “It doesn’t get any better than that.”
Chris Navarro, Buffalo and the Iron Horse, bronze, 9½ x 34 x 11½”
Chris Navarro, Heck of a Wreck, bronze, 29 x 26 x 16”
Chris Navarro, Taste Like Chicken, bronze, 16½ x 12 x 6½”
Chris Navarro, 20% Chance of Flurries, 1999, bronze, 15½ x 13½ x 6”
Chris Navarro, Wyoming Cowboy, bronze, 30 x 18 x 9”