Third Annual Summer Artfest At Whitefish Brings Fresh Faces To Western Art

Third Annual Summer Artfest At Whitefish Brings Fresh Faces To Western Art

The third annual Summer Artfest at Whitefish (Montana) presented fresh faces adding new perspectives to a genre perpetually at risk of stagnation for its preoccupation with the past. Western art and artists flirt with irrelevance when existing primarily in the rearview mirror.

Cattle drives and gunfights. Native people in traditional regalia living free on the plains. Buffalo herds and wide-open spaces long since destroyed by human encroachment.

The West will always elicit romance in the American psyche. What “West” that is, what romance it evokes, must inevitably evolve.

As a staunch and robust collector base idolizing John Wayne gives way to a younger, less loyal collector base more familiar with Lil’ Wayne, the same old stories told in the same old way won’t allow for Western art to remain relevant and vibrant.

Hosted June 24-26 by Cawdrey Gallery in idyllic downtown Whitefish with Firebrand Hotel offering exemplary accommodations for exploring the town on foot, Summer Artfest served as a model for how the traditional can combine with the contemporary to keep Western art dynamic for collectors and viable for artists long into the future.

LaQuincey Reed

LaQuincey Reed not only sculpts the historic Black cowboys he researches, but the Black “horse kids” he has seen and taught around his Oklahoma City home. While the presence of Black cowboys in the “old” West has finally begun being approached in Western art, Reed’s depiction of contemporary Black youth as a subject matter in the genre proves utterly groundbreaking.

This work represents such a dramatic departure from anything that has come before, it should bypass private collectors and go straight into museums for wide public appreciation. The Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa. The Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles. The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Reed’s hometown of Oklahoma City. All should have Reed’s sculptures in their collections allowing for curatorial experimentation alongside C.M. Russell and Frederic Remington for discovery into an expanding Western narrative.

The stunning originality of a Black teenager in a Kobe Bryant jersey with cowboy hat hoisting a saddle from his hip proves bracing. The imagery represented is completely new to art. It’s making that can only come through witnessing.

Reed’s witnessing.

The product of bi-racial parents where his mother’s side of the family–the Black side–offered him safety and stability in contrast to his white father’s abusive upbringing, Reed’s lived experience makes him a perfect vessel for sharing stories of young people upending racial stereotypes.

A fine arts graduate of the University of Oklahoma and recent inductee into the prestigious National Sculpture Society, the not-yet-40 Reed has the technical chops to match his astonishingly original imagery.

Brenna Tyler-Kimbro

Brenna Tyler-Kimbro was born to a Korean mother and African American soldier stationed in Seoul. At 18-months-old she was adopted by a white ranching family in eastern Oregon where she has lived to this day.

Tyler-Kimbro’s sculpture features perhaps the West’s most traditional symbol–the horse–from a most untraditional perspective, exactly what Western art needs to remain vigorous. Tyler-Kimbro uses sage wood found around her ranch to construct horse figures, imbuing in them sensations of peace and serenity, along with energy and motion.

Her work simultaneously pays homage to her subject matter, but also her adopted family and her Korean ancestors.

Tyler-Kimbro’s sculpture achieves new heights when incorporating colored minerals and geodes into her figures, inserting a dash of mysticism into the spirit of her horses.

Daniel Gonzalez

Daniel Gonzalez was born on a ranch along the U.S. border with Mexico. His father’s job took the family from Virginia to California with a stop on the Navajo reservation in what is now Arizona when the artist was aged five through nine.

Gonzalez’ parents are of mixed Mexican and Apache heritage. He injects a necessary dose of Mexican culture into Western art, this essential aspect of the region’s history too often overlooked. Nocturnal calaveras have become his signature.

Calaveras means “skull” in Spanish and Gonzalez’ whimsical, welcoming calaveras paintings–set against a midnight blue sky, hearts glowing from inside his skeletal figures, stars twinkling, iconic saguaro cactus filling out the scene–present a breath of fresh air when hung alongside dusty cowboys and buffalo.

Separating himself from 99% of his peers and further offering a contemporary model for his fellow artists to follow–Western or not–Gonzalez brings true entrepreneurial spirit to his art practice. His website offers everything from iPhone covers to throw pillows with his artwork reproduced for entry-level collectors.

During Summer Artfest at Whitefish, the work of Reed, Tyler-Kimbro and Gonzalez paired perfectly with Western art stalwarts like Nancy Dunlop Cawdrey and John Potter (Ojibwe). No artform can sustain itself without being pushed in new directions by new voices. When this newness arrives–so long as it comes from a genuine and heartfelt place–it does not detract from what came before, but rather augments it in exciting and unexpected ways.

https://newsminer.co

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *