Western art, when accurately portrayed, creates a record of a story that is uniquely American. The scenes of Native Americans, cowboys, horses, and rolling landscapes have long captivated audiences through film and art. Portrayals of life in the West often have themes of adventure and independence but there are larger themes that are integral in American history. The artists in this week’s Art Discovery capture Western scenes to preserve this history.
Randy Galloway is a painter and sculptor who recreates Native American scenes with great accuracy. He has had a connection to the West all of his life, growing up in Albuquerque, New Mexico and being immersed in Native American culture.
He approaches his art as a historian, spending much of his preparation reading stories and hearing accounts. Randy also travels throughout the US to attend reenactments where he captures photos as references. Over the years, he’s amassed a library of more than 16,000 photos, which he references for inspiration.
According to Randy, it is the history that is the strongest feature of Western Art. “It’s enlightening and magnifies the beauty of painting 1,000%,” he said.
Curt Mattston is a cowboy turned sculptor (and really, a multi-talented artist), and draws on his deep knowledge of horses and cowboy culture to create his detailed, and highly accurate, sculptures. As a rancher, Curt traveled throughout the West and learned the ins and outs of being a cowboy and horseman. He first began to consider art when he saw Edward Borein’s drawings at the Cowboy Hall of Fame.
When he learned to sculpt several years later, cowboys were the obvious subject. Bridging his experience as a rancher and his mastery of sculpture, Curt is able to tell an intimate story of the cowboy.
“To be able to tell the stories of the West and to know what it’s really about is my big passion,” he said.
In contrast to Curt and Randy who rely on history and tradition to create their art, Sarah Phippen has a more contemporary take in her paintings, capturing scenes from her personal life growing up on a ranch.
Tending to a farm and animals was Sarah’s parent’s way of instilling responsibility in their children but it also instilled a bond with their animals. The positive relationship between animals and nature is what fuels Sarah’s art. Growing up so closely with animals and nature, she learned to read the various mannerisms and nuances of living things, whether of the mammal or plant variety. And this connection is felt in each of her pieces as Sarah has masterfully learned how to capture the life and spirit in all living things.
“You end up with interspecies relationships between the animals, plants, and landscape,” she said. “All of those things wind together into things I don’t even know how to talk about.”
Although Sarah may struggle to find words to describe it, her work captures this powerful harmony.
Each of these artists has a different connection to Western people, cultures, and history but their art shares a common theme: preserving the history of the West and honoring the beauty of the region.