visions of the west Jo LeMay Rutledge Happy Trail Blazer The painter began producing what she calls “art of the West” just a decade ago, a shift from her renderings of sacred subjects. Primarily self-taught, she honed her oil painting skills under the guidance of Dennis Blagg. Rutledge, 68, says she wanted to approach the Western genre from “a little left of center,” focusing on the realistic rather than the romanticized. “Horse crap, broken things — it goes in there, too,” she says. “What I decided when I struck out on this trail — pun intended — I didn’t want to do what everyone else was doing.” A recent commission is Rogers Over and Out, a large-scale oil painting of the Will Rogers Coliseum during the annual Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, created for a longtime trumpeter in the now-disbanded FWSSR orchestra. The detailed scene is painted from the band’s perspective and includes, among other cameos, a Where’s Waldo figure in a cowboy hat; interior designer Kenneth Jorns, who organized the commission; and an image of the musicians playing, visible on a screen above the stands. The client, mesmerized by the results, hung the work in a place of honor in his high-rise condo and had it professionally lit three different ways before he was satisfied. Other Rutledge paintings have gone to corporations and homes near and far — she has exhibited at the storied Coors Western Art Exhibit & Sale half a dozen times — and her brushwork has shown up on the ties Ed Bass wears to the rodeo. “When people look at the work, they say, ‘I can smell it, I can taste it, I’ve been there,’ ” says Rutledge. “This is what I love; it sends me back to the easel every time.” In the works Watch for a solo show at Artspace111 toward the end of 2018; in the meantime, see Rutledge’s work by appointment at the gallery, artspace111.com, and online at jolemayrutledge.com. Long after the heyday of Remington and Russell, fine art with a Western bent continues to evolve. Contemporary Texas artists create sought-after works that are winning awards and being procured for private and museum collections around the world. We visited with four artists living and working in Texas who are making their mark on the genre. — Laura Samuel Meyn Laura Wilson Photographic Memories See the people of the rural West — their independence, even their isolation — through photographer Laura Wilson’s lens. After assisting legendary photographer Richard Avedon for six years, Wilson went on to shoot for The New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair and GQ, among others. Her adeptness at persuading people to be photographed has been an asset. “When you’re open and curious and interested in people and serious about what you’re doing, I think people respond to it,” she says. Take the Hutterite colony in Montana, for example. “I just kept going back. The first person I went with was a nurse — her husband was the country doctor; they all knew him. I’d slip in under her apron, because they were so pleased to see her.” Wilson’s Polaroid test shots — given away freely — won over the colony’s youngest. “The little children would follow me around like I was the Pied Piper of Polaroid.” While such documentary- style work is more typical for Wilson, she had fun setting up Girl and Colt in Living Room, in a barn and home outside Weatherford. Wilson posed a model in a living area between human and equine quarters. “I look upon it as a fairy tale,” says Wilson. “It’s an extravagance of the imagination.” Collectors take note: During Wilson’s 2015 exhibition at the Amon Carter, every work sold, four to the museum, the rest to a single buyer. “Laura Wilson: Photographs in the West” is on view at Fort Works Art Jan. 5-Feb. 3; at the reception, 6-9 p.m. Jan. 5, Wilson will sign copies of her fifth and most recent book, That Day: Pictures in the American West. Visit fortworksart.com or laurawilsonphotography.com. In the works Look for two new photography books from Wilson. Writers will feature such luminaries as Gabriel García Márquez, Richard Ford and Ian McEwan. Making Movies will be a behind-the-scenes look at the industry, with access made easier thanks to her sons, writers and actors Andrew, Owen and Luke Wilson. Bob “Daddy-O” Wade Retro Cool The Austin-based artist has fantastic stories. The child of a hotel manager, he grew up moving around Texas, occasionally crossing paths with his second cousin, actor Roy Rogers. For two years in his youth, Wade called Marfa’s famed Hotel Paisano home. “I was the first contemporary artist to have lived in Marfa,” he says with a chuckle. While he’s well known for his oversized sculptures — the 40-foot-long iguana at the Fort Worth Zoo, 40-foot-tall cowboy boots in San Antonio — Wade’s name also is synonymous with the works he creates by dramatically enlarging vintage black-and-white photographs and hand coloring them with acrylic or oil paints for a Technicolor glow; the results are at once contemporary and retro. Wade frequently starts with photo postcards produced by a particular Kodak camera in the 1920s; he keeps a stockpile of the vintage images in his studio. “There’s such high resolution in those large negatives,” says Wade. “It gets scanned, printed on canvas, and it’s immaculate.” His work has been featured at biennales in New York, New Orleans and Paris, in museums around the country and in the collections of Ralph Lauren, Robert Redford and photographer Laura Wilson, among others. While the artist has often worked with the old family photos of clients, one commission stands out. After meeting Prince Albert of Monaco at the opening of Le Texan restaurant in the principality, Wade received a photograph from the royal, showing Prince Albert I standing with Buffalo Bill in Cody, Wyoming; a painted rendition of the shot would be a birthday gift for Prince Rainier. Other favorite subjects include cactuses, oil wells and food, like the gigantic enchilada plate that hangs over a client’s bed in Dallas. “As things get more and more the same everywhere,” says Wade, “I’m trying to maintain the cool old stuff.” In the works There’s a new documentary and a book in progress. In Fort Worth, see Wade’s art at William Campbell Contemporary Art, williamcampbellcontemporaryart.com, or visit bobwade.com. Teresa Elliott Animal Kingdom The artist became interested in painting longhorns when she lived in Southlake, where she worked for two decades as an illustrator and photographer. “They offered limitless color patterns, horn texture, and most importantly, there were ample subjects available everywhere,” says Elliott. “I only had to make a two-minute drive from my home to enter their world of peace and humility. It was meditative and calming.” She has since moved to Alpine, just north of Big Bend National Park, where she focuses on painting fulltime. The subjects of her contemporary realism — cows, calves, horses and dogs — are shown in dignified, dramatically lit portraits that benefit from spare, almost formal backgrounds, sometimes a backdrop of rich, mottled color. Button is a good example of what makes her work stand out. The painting of Elliott’s favorite longhorn calf, who lived near her home in Southlake, reveals heart-swelling tenderness. His white hair is rendered in a detailed, pettable whorl on his forehead, his long-lashed gaze is leveled straight at the viewer, and his soft nose seems to reach out. This month, the painting is on exhibit at the LA Art Show, with Los Angeles’ Maxwell Alexander Gallery. While her works have broad appeal — individuals from near and far, including baseball’s Peter Freund and Nolan Ryan, are collectors — the artist sees her work as a departure from traditional Western art. “My work is completely contemporary in nature and has nothing to do with cowboys on horseback,” says Elliott. “Also, the emotional impact my work has on the viewer goes deeper than a Western typical landscape dotted with cows or horses.” In the works With her busy exhibition schedule, Elliott rarely takes on commissions. This month, she returns to the Coors Western Art Exhibit & Sale in Denver; her work can regularly be seen at InSight Gallery in Fredericksburg, insightgallery.com, and RJD Gallery in Bridgehampton, New York, rjdgallery.com. Visit teresa-elliott.com.
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