Texas painter Sonya Terpening is bringing three paintings that she calls “stories” to the Prix de West art show this year.
Terpening is among the 108 artists who will participate in the 38th annual Prix de West Invitational Art Exhibition and Sale, which opens today at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, 1700 NE 63.
“I'm basically a storyteller,” the artist said during a recent telephone interview from her home in Grapevine, Texas. “My paintings are all about the story — be it a modern cowboy herding horses or a woman fetching water from a stream.”
Sometimes the story can be as simple as bright sunlight on a front porch or a pie being taken out of a wood-stove oven, the artist said. “When something moves me — and it can be a scene, a color, even a scent — I want to express it in color and light so the viewer can share the feeling.”
Lately, Terpening has been painting a series that deals with what the artist describes as the ”softer and more intimate side” of the West: women and children, both pioneer and Indian. “Cowboys might have explored the West, but it was not really settled until the women and children came along,” she said.
Terpening said her love for Western art really blossomed while she was a student majoring in art education at Oklahoma State University.
“I learned a lot about Western realism painting by going to art seminars and watching art demonstrations every year at the Prix de West shows when I was at OSU, and later when I lived in Bartlesville and Tulsa,” Terpening said.
“Years later, when I was actually invited to show my work at the Prix de West show, I was so excited,” she recalled. “I think it's the best Western art show in the United States.”
Back then, Terpening also enrolled in some painting workshops at the museum — then known as the National Cowboy Hall of Fame — that were conducted by the late Bettina Steinke, Tom Ryan and Donald Teague. All three are now considered Western masters, and all have works on permanent display at the museum.
“The cowboy museum is such an amazing facility, with its beautiful artwork and its mission of highlighting the stories and the history that are unique to America,” Terpening added. “I think that's why I've always felt so at home there.”
For her 17th Prix de West show, Terpening, who is adept in watercolor and oil painting, will include examples of both mediums. “Running Water,” a large oil priced at $15,000, shows a young Indian woman filling a water jar from a river. Terpening said she wanted to contrast a mundane task such as getting water while being surrounded by the beauty and tranquility of land, water and sky.