Winter in the American West will be the subject of more than a few artworks on display at the upcoming Small Works, Great Wonders Winter Art Sale at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.
The seventh annual event will be from 6 to 9 p.m. Nov. 16 at the museum, 1700 NE 63. The one-night sale will showcase some 200 paintings and sculptures from 111 top-tier Western artists, including many who participate in the museum's Prix de West Invitational art show each June. This year's Small Works roster includes 28 new artists.
Tucson, Ariz., painter Phil Starke is one of the first-timers included in the show. Although this Starke's first outing at the museum, he's hardly an artistic novice. After graduation from the American Academy of Art in Chicago in 1982, Starke worked odd jobs in construction until sales of his paintings enabled him to become a full-time artist in 1986.
Since then his paintings have won awards at dozens of art shows and been featured in “American Artist Magazine,” “Southwest Art” and “Art of the West.”
Starke is represented locally by the Grapevine Gallery, 1933 NW 39.
During a recent telephone interview from his Tucson studio, Starke said he was delighted to be invited to participate in this year's show.
“Anytime you can get to do anything at the National Cowboy Museum, you know you're in great shape,” he said.
Starke said “Night Solitude,” his 11-by-14-inch oil painting, priced at $2,100, shows longhorn cattle bedded down for the night in a pasture near Mount Carmel in southern Utah. “Just like Arizona, anytime you get a full moon in Utah, you get a lot of really nice colorations that come out only at night,” he said.
“End of the Day, Colorado,” a 16-by-20-inch oil, priced at $3,500, shows two cowboys on horseback shooting the breeze, surrounded by grazing cattle and a breathtaking view of the Rockies. Starke said the painting was done in his studio and is an enlarged version of a small color study he did on a Colorado painting trip.
“I do a lot of plein-air studies, and I'm not even sure whether the cowboys or the cattle were in the original scene for this painting.” Starke said. “I especially like the look of a landscape in the evening when the light is low and there's a lot of contrast and different color values.”
Returning artist Linda Tuma Robertson of Edmond won the Buyers Choice Award at the first Small Works, Great Wonders show in 2006. This year, Robertson's two landscape oils will each feature a relatively rare subject — an Oklahoma snow scene.
Both paintings were inspired by the February 2011 snowstorm that blanketed Oklahoma and the Southwest and brought most regional travel to a halt for a week. The award-winning artist's paintings are exhibited locally year-round at the Howell Gallery, 6432 N Western.
“We were trying to drive to an art gallery show in Tucson and got stranded in Ardmore,” recalled Robertson, a lifelong Oklahoman and a mostly self-taught artist. “I thought, well, if I can't get to Arizona, at least I can take a lot of Oklahoma snow pictures.”
Robertson said her 14-by14-inch oil, “Ripples and Shadows,” priced at $2,200, depicts a scene from the Chickasaw National Recreation Area from her trip home from Ardmore.
“Winter Illumination,” a 20-by-16-inch oil, priced at $2,950, shows a stretch of river north of Guthrie where Skeleton Creek flows into the Cimarron River. “It's a really beautiful area with its red cliffs, pretty trees and curving banks and sandbars,” the painter said.
“I was so excited when the museum said they wanted some of the art for the Small Works show to feature a winter theme,” Robertson added. “I thought, I've got the pictures!”
Museum board member Peter Hoffman said he and his wife, Susan, were motivated to become the major sponsor for this year's Small Works event because of their love for Western art and commitment to the cowboy museum's mission to preserve and perpetuate the Old West's traditional values of honesty, hard work, self-reliance and helping one's neighbor.
“Art is arguably the museum's single most important asset and is a great way to attract people to the museum and encourage them to become members,” Hoffman said recently via telephone. “The Small Works show supports the creation of art of the West by both established and emerging artists. These artists' representations, or interpretations, of the American West is just as important today as in the past.”
Museum President Chuck Schroeder said when most people think about purchasing Western art, they think they have to go to Santa Fe, N.M.; Taos, N.M., or Sedona, Ariz. But in the past few years, more than a few savvy art buyers have been checking out when the Oklahoma City museum will hold one of its three annual art events — the prestigious Prix de West Invitational each June, the Cowboy Crossings show in early fall, which features one-of-a-kind works by the Cowboy Artists of America and the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association, and the Small Works, Great Wonders show in November.
The three shows have meant great business for the museum and the participating artists. Art sales for the recent Cowboy Crossings show totaled $1.2 million, more than $3.25 million in art changed hands at the Prix de West in June and last year's Small Works event generated $343,000.
“The Small Works, Great Wonders show began as a response to many of our patrons who love the top quality Western art they get to see each year at the Prix de West, but have neither the space nor discretionary resources to purchase the larger scale works in that show,” Schroeder said. “We asked those renowned artists to do some smaller pieces in a more modest price range that would allow perhaps younger, newer collectors to purchase art for their homes, confident that they were still investing in superb quality.”
Schroeder said the November show quickly became popular. Its preholiday timing seeks to encourage gift-buying and to introduce a broader audience for Western art, including beginning collectors. Another plus is that attendees can leave with their purchased art that night. In addition, Schroeder and museum officials soon realized the Small Works show represented an opportunity to serve the larger Western-themed art community. “Virtually everyone associated with this popular genre asked, ‘Where do we find and encourage the next generation of exquisitely talented artists focusing on Western subject matter?'” Schroeder said. “The answer is here.”
The show's catalog is available for viewing online at the museum's website. Unsold works from the show will hang at the museum through Jan. 6 and will be available for purchase.
Local caterers providing the evening's refreshments are Dining on Persimmon Hill, the Petroleum Club of Oklahoma City, Running Wild Catering, Bravo! Cucina Italiana, the Melting Pot and On the Border.
Tickets to the event cost $60 for museum members and $75 for nonmembers. Online reservations can be made at nationalcowboymuseum.org. or by calling 478-2250, Ext. 219.