Southwest Art Previews "Ranch Life"

Show Preview: Ranch Life

Southwest Art

Culver City, CA

Maxwell Alexander Gallery, December 10-January 7

Billy Schenck, To Kill a Mocking Bird, oil, 24 x 30.

Billy Schenck, To Kill a Mocking Bird, oil, 24 x 30.

This story was featured in the December 2016 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  December 2016 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

As the landscape of American ranch life continues to change with the tides, Maxwell Alexander Gallery’s group show this month invites viewers to savor slices of its preservation through the eyes of 12 contemporary painters. Each artist shares one or two works inspired by their personal experiences, observations, and expressions of the American ranch and what it stands for. Those artists presenting works include Howard Post, Billy Schenck, Grant Redden, Eric Bowman, Josh Clare, Josh Elliott, Bryan Haynes, and Mark Maggiori. The show opens Saturday, December 10, with an artists’ reception from 6 to 8 p.m.

Gallery director Beau Alexander notes that much of western art is about preserving a changing way of life, a trend that goes back to American artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. “This show pays homage to the continued vanishing of the West,” he says. “We’re asking artists to paint their artistic interpretations of ranch life, particularly how it looks today, capturing the moment in history.” 

As a third-generation Arizonan who grew up on a small ranch in Tucson, artist Howard Post is intimately familiar with the show’s theme. “I usually portray the quiet times, the downtimes, the little vignettes of ranch life,” muses Post. In one of his two works for the show, CLEAR WATER, horses graze languidly near a stream. One horse stands apart in the shallow water, poised to take a drink. “I like the abstract qualities I find in animals and nature. That’s what gets me going,” says Post. If a narrative results, he adds, that’s a bonus.

Artist Grant Redden, too, experienced ranch life firsthand growing up on his father’s sheep and cattle ranch. “I’ve worn out many a pair of buckskin gloves,” says Redden, “digging post holes, fixing fences, branding, spreading salt on the summer range, mowing hay, feeding stock in a blizzard.” In his painting for the show, WYOMING COWPUNCHER, Redden portrays a rider in the high-desert plateau of southwestern Wyoming, where he lives today. Although subject matter is important to him, Redden is even more motivated, he says, by “the textures, colors, design elements—all those things that make a painting compelling, regardless of the subject.”

Landscape and figure painter Eric Bowman says he’s discovered a new direction this year in western subject matter. Inspired by the “iconic American cowboy,” Bowman created the painting MORNING RIDER for the show, portraying a working cowboy riding on horseback across open land. “His freedom and slower pace of life is something I see being slowly lost to the modern, industrial, and globalized digital age,” says the native Californian, who today lives in northwestern Oregon. 

Bowman has witnessed the effects of urban sprawl and global outsourcing on ranches and farms around him. “That way of life is diminishing,” he says. “I think art is and always has been a strong influence on the public consciousness when it comes to drawing attention to important issues. Hopefully, this show will contribute to that consciousness and encourage people to consider this important part of our unique history.” —Kim Agricola

To view this show click HERE.