An oil painting of a young woman lighting candles at a home shrine decorated with a colorful shawl and a weeping Virgin “santo” won the 2012 Prix de West Purchase Award on Saturday at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.
“La Luz de Fe,” (or “The Light of Faith”), priced at $58,000 and painted by Terri Kelly Moyers of Santa Fe, N.M., will be bought by the museum for its permanent collection. The artist also will receive a $5,000 cash prize and the Prix de West medallion.
The award-winning artwork and its artist were announced during Saturday's luncheon at the museum's 39th annual Prix de West Invitational Art Exhibition and Sale. Traditionally, the announcement is a surprise to art patrons and artists attending the show.
“My legs are so wobbly,” Moyers, 58, said moments after her name was announced. “I can't tell you what this honor means. I'm just overwhelmed.”
In the 39-year history of the show, only one other woman has won the Prix de West Award — Bettina Steinke, also of Santa Fe, in 1978.
In an interview afterward, Moyers said she is overwhelmed “to be considered in the same league as Bettina Steinke, along with all the rest of the Prix de West-winning artists. It's a total honor for me.”
Moyers said the 48-inch-square oil was inspired by the “weeping Virgin santo,” a statue of the Virgin Mary that stands in her studio and that she reproduced in her winning painting.
“I found that santo at a flea market in Santa Fe about four or five years ago, and I just loved her,” the artist said. “She's been in my studio ever since. She has the most beautiful face. She helps me to paint every day. I'm comforted by having her there.”
Even with the santo's help, Moyers said the painting was the most difficult she has ever done. “It has such close values — very dark values — and I wanted to keep my focus on the face of the young woman and her lighting of the candles — all leading to the santo. It was fun, but it was also very challenging,” Moyers said. “If I can impart my joy about a subject to the viewer, then I've succeeded.”
This year's Prix de West show and sale features 351 works of art by 110 of the nation's top-notch Western painters and sculptors. Prices range from an $850 sculpture to an $85,000 oil painting.
Museum President Chuck Schroeder said the works of art exceed $5.7 million in value. Opening day art sales totaled just over $3 million, down from the $3.3 million in opening day sales last year.