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.
As in previous years, a live auction of works of art took place during the banquet. Schroeder said this year's auction generated $71,500.
The James Earle Fraser Sculpture Award went to Canadian sculptor Richard Loffler, 56, for his bronze of a massive gyrating rodeo bull, “Top Knots and Tails.” The 42-inch high bronze was priced at $24,000. The Fraser award recognizes artistic merit in sculpture and carries a $3,000 prize.
The Frederic Remington Painting Award went to Taos painter Walt Gonske, 70, for “Waiting on Spring,” which shows several old homes and outbuildings in northern New Mexico, with bare patches of roofs and earth visible between clumps of snow. Gonske's oil-on-panel painting was priced at $14,000. The Remington award honors exceptional artistic merit in painting and carries a $3,000 prize.
The Express Ranches Great American Cowboy Award, honoring the best portrayal of cowboy subject matter and carrying a $3,000 prize, was presented to “A Fish Out of Water,” painted by John Moyers, 53, of Santa Fe. He is the husband of Terri Kelly Moyers, this year's Prix de West Award winner. The $48,000 painting shows a bewildered old cowboy, wearing boots and a large hat, standing on a corner of New York's Times Square, map in hand.
The Major General and Mrs. Don Pittman Wildlife Art Award was given to sculptor Ross Matteson, 55, of Olympia, Wash., for his black Belgian marble sculpture, “Ripple Effect.” The $25,000 sculpture shows a bufflehead duck moving along the surface of the water, causing a small rippling wake.
Idaho painter George Carlson was named the recipient of the Robert Lougheed Memorial Award, established in 1988 and named for one of the 20th century's leading Western painters. The award and its $3,000 prize honors the artist with the best display of three or more works in the show and is chosen by the exhibiting artists.
The Nona Jean Hulsey Rumsey Buyers' Choice Award went to “People of the Red Tail Hawk” a sculpture priced at $55,000 by Doug Hyde. The award carries a $3,000 prize, and is chosen by art patrons attending the show's opening sale.)
All the art in the show will remain on view at the museum, 1700 NE 63, through Aug. 5. Any unsold works will be available for purchase until then.