the cattle drive: visions of the old west
Nothing prompts images of the wide-open West like the cow. From dusty cattle drives across vast landscapes of arroyos and sagebrush to rodeo thrills starring majestic bulls, steer-roping, and daily ranch life, the cow is an iconic symbol recognized the world over. Angus, Texas Longhorn, Hereford, Brahman, and more dominate the breeds and each has its own unique characteristics.
“I was raised around cattle,” says Leroy Garcia, owner of Blue Rain Gallery. “They have such personality and each is different. When I was 15, I had some of the milking chores on my grandfather’s ranch and I’ve been kicked, smacked, and pooped on when one of the cows felt I was not doing my job correctly! I thought it would be interesting to host an invitational exhibition themed around these characters with artwork created by five talented Western artists.”
“The Cattle Drive” opens on Friday, June 17th, and will run through the end of the month in Blue Rain Gallery’s new Railyard gallery. Teresa Elliott, Billy Schenck, Julie Holthaus, Sonja Caywood, and Nathan Bennett are the show’s featured artists and we are excited about the stunning and often surprising interpretations of the theme.
Each participating artist has expressed the appeal of this unique motif and some have several works in the exhibition.
Teresa Elliott’s glowingly lit Young Brahman imbues him with the individuality her paintings are known for: “The cow is central to western art iconography. Rather than embed them in a western landscape, I prefer to bring them forward to create an intimate atmosphere for the viewer to contemplate.”
Who doesn’t enjoy the stylized photorealism of Billy Schenck’s paintings? His artworks celebrate the romance of western legends, with a nod to his pop art roots. As exemplified in A Day in July, one of the invitational’s featured paintings, his focus on elements of a sizzling southwest summer—silhouetted cattle, bold red mesas beneath a cumulous-laden sky—merge to evoke pleasure and nostalgia in its viewers.
Coming from a family of farmers and ranchers in Kansas, Julie Holthaus likes to think cattle ranching will always be “an important part of American history and culture.” There is something “genuine and strong,” she continues, “about the West, and I think Western legend deserves to be preserved.” Art is certainly one means of doing that and Julie’s bold cattle portraits may tempt you to rope one in for your own collection.
Sonja Caywood’s childhood in the saddle, growing up as a ranch girl, informs and inspires her art too. It pleases her “to see cattle are now central subjects of western art instead of background,” their significance in history placing them center stage: “I’ve always loved animals, and livestock figures prominently in both my memories and my paintings.” Sonja’s signature use of amplified color and light combined with her energetic brushwork make her artworks instantly recognizable and never fail to draw your eye.
Called a master patineur, many consider Nathan Bennett to be a modern-day alchemist as he calls forth fire and minerals to patinate bronze panels and sculptures. His lustrous atmospheric images often emphasize “the mystique of the West and western culture” drawn from regional scenes—bulls snorting, cows grazing, rodeos and cowboying, open landscapes under a big sky. Wait until you see what he has in the show!
Come to Cow Country and soak up reminders of life on the range—we hope to see you here!