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Equestrian West, Photography of William Shepley
September 24, 2005 through December 23, 2005
THE WEST: DENIM & DUST at the St. George Art Museum from September 24 through December 23, 2005.
The West travels inside the St. George Art Museum with the opening of Denim & Dust on September 24, 2005. Seen through the eyes of four different artists using both 2D and 3D media, you can experience several dimensions of the West.
The West, which can be defined by geography or time, is an immense mythic place, far beyond any physical space. The West is full of great beauty and marvelous beasts. There is both a quiet as well as a raw, dramatic, sublime, and geologic beauty. The West is a place of relentless wind, loneliness, and storms.
Cowboys and cowgirls, ranchers and rodeo contestants, horsemen and horsewomen actively perform and solemnly pose to populate the Museum walls. These are set off by imaginative sculptures of a fascinating area stone, rocks being such a pervasive aspect of the West.
The Legendary Prints of the Southwest by Lon Megargee on loan from Mr. And Mrs. A. P. Hays are featured in the Main Gallery. Megargee, an artist we were fortunate to have three paintings of in the Santa Fe Railroad exhibit, also had a great graphic sense, and his images cover a wide range of western subjects.
The settlers crawled west for land, then rode more easily west when the railroad (an important patron of Megargee’s) was completed. Yet, the land still beckons us, even haunts us. The West is a place of mystery and dreams, as seen in some of these works.
On view in the Mezzanine Gallery, William Shepley’s Equestrian West photographs continue our conversation with the more recent West. His photographs, collected by many Hollywood celebrities, show Wild West type- scenes as well as the working cowboy, both in action and in repose.
Ranching still exists in the West and has changed in the how but not the why it is done. Cattle are raised to be sold for beef. Branding is a critical ritual of the range that establishes ownership, as is roping, also an essential skill on the open range.
It is not possible to imagine the West without the romance and utility of the horse, another ranching tool before the automobile and still necessary to large open range operations, especially in rough country.
The Mezzanine Gallery, also features Red, White, & Rhyolite: the Sculpture of Kirk McCoy which explores both this extraordinary stone and the artistic process. Red and white rocks are so characteristic of the beauty that surrounds us in this magnificent country.
Move to the Legacy Gallery, The Rodeo in Paint by Lenka Konopasek, and we find the rodeo as seen through the eyes of an artist born abroad. She captures the moving blur and fast excitement of bulls trying to free themselves of their temporary and unwelcome cargo, while this cowboy cargo tries to stay on to make the eight-second buzzer and win the competition.
For over 100 years the demise of the cowboy has been predicted, but thankfully cowboys carry on much as before in a business dependent on the seasons, on the rain, the grass, the beasts. It is a way of life that has produced much beauty: raw beauty and raw beasts, both untamed and semi-tamed beasts. It lives on in myth seen so vividly in the work done recently of the western past, ever popular. The dialogue with the nature of the West resonates on, and this exhibit, a sample, of the incredibly large West, is an occasion for us to yet contemplate the meaning and the art of the West.