I manipulate metals and minerals and bonding solutions in order to provoke emotional responses from people I will usually never meet. That which happens in the process some people call art. My talent for creating icons and illusions turned into a lifetime of manipulations... in various pigments, bronze and steel, some quite large, which loom in museums, schools, collections and public places all over Texas. Here on this blog you can watch my creative actions and insights unfold...

Western Art

Afterwork Wetspot

I'll never forget the day in the early 80's in Granbury, Texas when an insistent applicant showed up to be considered for affiliation, if not membership in the Texas Wild Bunch, a co-op of Texas, and mostly "western" artists. He had talked to our "Ramrod" Harley Murray, and assured him that he was a "Western Artist." When he came up with several canvases under his arms, we were breaking for lunch, after a typical bull session trying to plan a future art show. Harley went over to greet him and deal with the bad timing, as we were pretty hungry.

Comanche Gold
They visited while we made wise-cracks, as the guy did not look like a "western artist," but rather some kind of New England sea captian. Harley was shaking his head. Soon he shrugged and led the old guy over to us, not wanting to be the heavy. Most of us always gave Harley a lot of trouble for his decisions, thinking we could do better. But this was one time we would have been glad to defer to his wisdom.

"What do you guys think? He says this is Western Art..."

Leaning up against the curb were a couple of fairly modern, nearly expressionistic paintings, one a clear abstract, another a painting of ... the ... Golden Gate Bridge.

"It's the Golden Gate Bridge!" the whiskered artist exclaimed, "You can't get much more WESTERN than that!"

We all chuckled at his humor. He was from California, and was looking for some art action. He was about to get a big argument. Harley laughed at our dilemma. We stood in the sun and debated what Western Art was, what it meant to each of us, as most of us were "Western Artists." Surely we could dismiss this guy easily. But he would not acquiesce, and argued with us toe to toe. He sited his art background, perhaps more extensive than any of ours. Then he pulled out his big guns, his ace in the hole... he quoted Southwest Art Magazine.

Five O'clock Traffic

"Southwest Art says that Western Art is anything done west of the Mississippi!"

Yea.. but...

We finally gave up trying to reject him on intellectual grounds, and just told him that he was a nice guy, but the Golden Gate Bridge did not qualify. Then we went to lunch, fairly ruffled. The guy just would not accept our consensus... he sure had a lot of nerve... to challenge our... paradigm.

All this to say, I am a Western artist, according to my own definition.  Or, more accurately, I have painted Western Art, in the process of chronicling all things Texas, especially historical, agricultural, geological and botanical. On this page I offer works that I have done that I think are Western Art, which may stretch your paradigm of that genre.

Saturday at the Greenwood Store, Plantersville, Texas
Furthermore, I have painted a lot of cowboys over the years, and over the years have even worked on ranches and farms in the Brazos Valley. I have actually been paid to work cattle from a horse, in a chute, in pens and open pasture. I wear hats and boots... but never-the-less, I never claimed to be a real, rootin' tootin' cowboy. Maybe a ranch hand. I've plowed Texas soil, cultivated, planted and fertilized; Soy beans, peanuts, cotton and oats. I've worked the cotton scale, driven rice trucks during harvest to the dryer, measured the rocky hills of Jack County as a survey chainman;  Built barbed wire fences, milled corn for feed, milked my own cow, drank the milk, I even rode the Salt Grass Trail as a kid when in High School. So all of this prepared me to be a... western artist. And much more. I've never seen the Golden Gate Bridge, but it's still a somewhat expanded paradigm.

Brazos Bottom Field Day
When just a kid in High School, a nice lady gave me a giant book about the Bronzes of the American West. Her note to me inside said that she expected one day that my name would be included in the list of western sculptors... and I thought she was dreaming... Maybe she was about half right... Anyway, here is Russell Cushman's American West!

 King of Texas
 Waiting for Breakfast

Cowboy Coffee Break

The Horsetrader

One subject I have loved and felt was a little unique was my attention to Texas women... western women, the ones who put up with, loved, fed, scrubbed and ironed for, and waited countless hours for those mythical cowboys. They bore and raised their children, made homes out of dusty shacks, and conveyed whatever "breeding" the kids might get, in terrible, sometimes disgusting conditions. Cattlemen were not isolated from their Victorian environment. Most of their women in 1860 would have dressed like this... barefooted teen-ager, drying her persperation with a turkey-tail fan,  anxious to dance... A black fiddler stomping out a waltz.

Eliza Rae

 The Diary

 Flamenco Dancer- Star of the Republic Museum

And in the cantinas Mexican dancers entertained the men... who were very easily amused.

Texas Blue Belles

The early towns of Texas would have looked like this... mud streets, log homes, livestock running around like pets...

This too is the American West.

But this better fulfills expectations.

And this!

Even a Native American Fantasy...
Texas Ranger- Educator- Justice of the Peace Harvey Mitchell of Bryan, Texas
This was the cover jacket for my father's book on the life of Jesse Chisholm. (early 1980's)
And Mrs. Erdmann, thank you for believing in me!

No comments:

Post a Comment