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Spirit of Wyoming Series

The "Spirit of Wyoming" series of paintings is an ongoing project that explores my state's unique history and how that history resonates today.  Wyoming remains the least populated state in the nation.  In post Civil War America when the states surrounding us were growing, developing, and prospering, Wyoming was known for Red Cloud’s War, the "bloody Bozeman Trail" and the Fetterman massacre.    For most it was not a destination, but a place to quickly move through.  Because of  Indian uprisings, land grabs, range wars, and cattle/sheep conflicts Wyoming had a reputation for lawless violence.  Those who remained in "the big empty" were of a brave, stubborn, and resilient  stock who were prepared to defend themselves from any threat, be it ancient indigenous people, or modern corporate greed.  These paintings pay homage to that legacy, the vestige of which  I witness daily among my fellow Wyomingites.   Just as the great rivers of America have their source in the Wyoming mountains, the stories in every western novel, cowboy movie, or TV horse opera can find their source in Wyoming history. 


I chose to explore our relationship with the past by selecting historical figures whose stories represent differing facets of our "Wyoming character".  Tom Horn, an ethically challenged Apache fighter and range detective who was hung, perhaps unjustly, for the murder of a child.  William F. Cody, the showman and superstar of his time who helped turn the page on the old west and created the myth, hype, and romance that is still a huge part of the American character today.  Jim Bridger, mountain man, pathfinder, and human GPS who's uncanny grasp of the lay of the land directed generations who followed.  He pioneered the trans-continental railroad route through the mountains twenty years before it was built.  The subject of the current work in progress is Nate Champion, the "bravest man in Johnson County" who was a martyr to corporate greed and the insurrection it sponsored, the Johnson County War.  


These works are a break from my more traditional approach to painting and contain elements of Pop Art, Abstract Expressionism, and even pulp illustration. Like Wyoming today is a blend of old tradition and modern ideas, so are these works.  I might simplify the progression  from Renaissance painting to modern art as moving away from representational, three dimensional form towards a flattening of the picture plain, and the abstraction of the figure.   My goal in these paintings was to contrast highly modeled elements with flat fields of color where the past and the present co-reside within the same image.  An image where some forms are finely rendered, while others become one dimensional.


Though these works fall outside the bounds of more traditional western art, I am encouraged that two of the three completed paintings were accepted into distinguished art exhibitions, the Governor's Capitol Art Exhibition at the Wyoming State Museum, and the Spirit of the West Art Show and Sale at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum.

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