Western Art Collector
Up to 20 works
225 Canyon Road
Santa Fe, NM 87501
(505) 986-9833 www.manitougalleries.com
Paul Rhymer’s father was a taxidermist at the Smithsonian Institution. His mother, a painter, was a summer employee at the Smithsonian where she and her husband met. Their son followed in their footsteps and was a taxidermist and model maker at the institution’s National Museum of Natural History for 25 years.
“All I wanted to do is make stuff for a living,” he says. “I learned taxidermy from my father and my mom took me to art exhibitions in Washington. When I started sculpting in the 1990s, I wanted it to be accurate but I didn’t want it to look like taxidermy. I saw Bart Walter’s bronze sculptures of chimps. They had life but an impressionistic feel.”
Rhymer knows animals from the inside out. He is also an avid birder and wildfowl hunter and knows their movement and personalities. “I love ravens,” he says. “They’re super smart. I was playing with the idea of how smart they are and thought about the raven inventing the wheel.” He wrote a fable to accompany his sculpture in which Raven offers the wheel to different animals in the forest, none of whom felt they needed it. The fable ends, “Raven knew that the only creature left was Man. And since she knew that Man was the neediest and greediest of all creatures, he would use the Wheel. Man did take the wheel and invented the car. Thus killing Squirrels, Raccoons and Deer. And Raven never went hungry again.”
David Riley paints the wildlife of the West as well as portraits of people of the Old West seen in vintage photographs. He grew up in Michigan but has lived in the West for about 14 years, the past four in Utah. Following a 10-year career in illustration, he now paints full time.
Moving west, he discovered different animals and “how visible the history still is. I wanted to paint it. People have always been my favorite subjects to paint.” Pueblo Man is based on a photograph from 1905 by Edward S. Curtis of Pose-a yew from Nambé Pueblo.
“I like to find old photos and do research on who the person is and where they lived,” he says. “The people who lived in the late 1800s have a quality to them that you don’t see often today. There’s a heavy sense of grit that shows on their faces. There’s pride, sadness and resoluteness in the same expression.”
After blocking in the subject in oil on his canvas, he splatters mineral spirits on the surface. “That adds texture, blows the edges out and abstracts what’s already on the canvas,” he explains. “Then I go in for the fine
details and sharpen up the areas I want to be focal points.”
His animal portraits probe the personality of the subjects as well. “I don’t approach them differently than people. The fun part with animals is trying to capture something about their personality. They each have unique characteristics. Rather than showing them in their environment I have them peering into the picture plane. I think about how they act in that window. A bison will command a lot of the space. A bobcat might sneak into the picture frame,” he says.
“Herbert was a pet mouse along with Albert. I was revisiting having them as a kid,” Riley muses. “In the painting I wanted to see how much I could focus in on one area like the eyes and how much I could let it go in the rest.”
An exhibition, David Riley & Paul Rhymer, is scheduled for July 10 through 20 at Manitou Galleries on Canyon Road in Santa Fe, New Mexico.