The Museum of Western Art is offering the best of both worlds right now — its deep collection is on display, but also are the works of the American Plains Artists.
In the side gallery of the museum's exhibition space, the American Plains Artists Signature Show is ongoing. This is a juried competition, with Cowboy Artist of America Jason Scull and painter Herman Walker serving as the jurors. While they had their favorites, we decided to provide a look at the exhibition and the five works that caught our eye.
Grains of Life II
Why we like it: This is a graphite work, valued at $2,800, but the reason it resonates for us is that after driving across West Texas several times, along with ventures across the panhandle, this is a familiar scene. In this image, the grain silos are in good shape, but one of the striking things about West Texas is how many of these are abandoned.
Looking for the calf
Why we like it: This oil painting, valued at $1,000, is a juxtaposition piece — the old West and the new West. We've got the riders looking for a lost calf but just across the fenceline pumpjacks work in the distance. While this feels like Texas, it could be several places like Colorado, New Mexico and dare we say — California? It's also a beautifully designed piece of impressionism that really captivates that balance between old and modern.
Why we like it: Beep, beep!
The Long Trot
Why we like it: Another piece of beautiful impressionism, this oil by Gary Ward, valued at $3,000, makes us feel like the riders are searching for nostalgia. These aren't working riders like the ones in the piece by Alice Leese, but they're in this for a bit of leisure. A long trot sounds like a good plan to us.
Pawns of Progress
Why we like it: For Native American tribes, the loss of the American Bison was a catastrophe and this piece demonstrates that narrative. The man is crouched over the skull of a bison, and you can only imagine what he's thinking — most likely what are we going to do now? It is estimated that 200 years ago, more than 20 million bison roamed North America. By 1900, that number was less than 100. Today, conservation efforts have restored the population to more than 500,000 animals.
The high price of beef
Why we like it: This is our second selection from Gary Ward, but this one is not about a leisurely long trot. This is a reminder of the hard work and sacrifice that goes into cattle ranching. The sculpture is a winter scene, where the cowboys have recovered a calf from its dead mother — who appears to have died from the cold. The cowboys are bundled up and uncomfortable. There are so many narrative details in this piece that you have to walk around it to fully appreciate the work.