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The Other Side of the West: Re-creating New Icons of the West

March 14 - July 25, 2004


"I think the genre of traditional Western painting is a dull one that has not evolved at all in the past 50 year," says artist Thom Ross, with his tongue only slightly in cheek. Ross is one of the newest members of the newest group in Western Art, calling themselves The Other Side of the West. Formed in 1998 by artists Maria Sharylen and J.E. Knauf, its goal is to challenge the time honored traditions of what qualifies as Western art.  (right: Anne Coe, Suburban Ranchette, © Anne Coe, acrylic on canvas, 40 x 48 inches)

The group now has 14 members and has received considerable attention in the Western art arena, winning praise for cutting edge depictions of the West. "These are very successful people who specialize in massaging, twisting, and sometimes shattering traditional concepts of Western art," says Knauf.

The group's initial show opened in 2000, and then spent two years touring Arizona. When that show opened, the Booth was not even under construction yet, but Sharylen may have had us in mind when she remarked, "No matter where (this) show goes, for the viewer it's covering new ground and leaving the corral far behind." Little did she know how far the show would wind up going, both literally and figuratively.  (left: Bill Schenck, Flusher, © Bill Schenck, oil on canvas, 72 x 72 inches)

The success of the initial tour in Arizona led to a contract with Smith-Kramer exhibition company for the current traveling show The Other Side of the West: Re-creating New Icons of the West, on view at the Booth through July 25, 2004.

Members of the group whose work is included in the traveling show are JD Challenger, Bill Schenk, Nelson Boren, John Axton, David DeVary, Ben Wright, Anne Coe, and Miguel Martinez, along with Sharylen and Knauf. New members of the group whose work will only be included at the Booth stop on the tour include Donna Howell-Sickles, Lincoln Fox, Denny Haskew, and Ross. Nearly half of these artists are represented in the Booth collection, indicating the contemporary nature of the Museum's holdings.

Visitors touring the show will not find pristine mountain landscapes, nostalgic views of cowboys at sundown, or pastel colored Native Americans. What they will find are some of the freshest views of the West, still featuring many of the same iconic subjects found in all of Western art, but rendered in a much more modern style. Knauf said members of this group also have a more inclusive vision of the West: "The West holds many peoples, beauty, and many paths."  (right: Maria Sharylen, Celebration, Cinco de Mayo, © Maria Sharylen, 2000, oil on canvas, 48 x 60 inches)

Group members readily admit they are also out to make a name for themselves, not, however, at the expensive of other artists or groups, but as another option for collectors of Western art. Sharylen simply puts it this way, "Our ultimate goal is to be in the history books." For the next several months, visitors to the Booth can make their own decision as to their rightful place in art history.


Editor's note: RLM readers may also enjoy this earlier article:

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Copyright 2003, 2004 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.