Artist Interview with Woody Shepherd

Modern West Fine Art is thrilled to feature new works by Woody Shepherd. The exhibition is currently on display until March 11, 2017. Woody Shepherd's bold landscapes demand presence in not only their scale but also their execution. His dramatic technique of layering and removing paint creates depth, texture and compelling composition in his work. We took a moment to ask Woody about his newest works...

Your captivating compositions engage the viewer to take a closer look. The bold colors through out your works are balanced with the serene subject matter. What inspired you to focus on creating pieces that were inspired by the wilderness with such a vibrant palette?

When bold colors interact and/or clash on the eye, it excites our senses. That is what I am trying to do not only with color but with texture as well. Instead of mixing every color in paint down to a "local color," I employ optical mixtures of vibrant colors next to each other in which are mixed on the eye rather than in paint. I find this effect to be interactive and exciting. The wilderness is a similar situation. There is light, color, texture being chopped up in all ways.  I am trying to simulate the same feeling and excitement in my paintings that I experience in real life.

You have been exhibiting your paintings with Modern West Fine Art since we opened three years ago. Our collectors love the large scale in which you work but some ask if you paint smaller. This is often due to the fact they don't have the space to feature your work. In your latest exhibition you provided us with new works that were smaller in scale. What influences the format in which you work in? Was it challenging for you to work in a smaller format? What draws you to paint in a larger format? 

I have been scaling down my paintings for the time being (but not abandoning the large scale ones). Ive been slowly tricking myself into being "Okay" with painting smaller by gradually scaling down over the past year or two. The demand for smaller works from collectors has finally caught up to me. For a long time I would not work under six foot in the smallest dimension. I am aiming to stay in a smaller format for a while, but am excited for the days to work larger again. Lately I have been particularly drawn back to the square or "close to square" format.  Square is a difficult format to work in, but when it is done well, it is a powerful shape.

Many of your works have incredible texture created by the building up and taking away layers of paint. Can you tell us more about your process and how you create such dynamic paintings.

Just like color, I like to interact and clash texture in my paintings. I find that it adds a whole extra dimension to my work. Just as you can witness colors as sensations, texture activates another sensation. I also like to confuse the relief of the surface texture with the illusion. Often the deepest space in the illusion is sticking the furthest out of the painting surface. The textures are created by many processes.

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Often I throw thick painting onto the surface, use a press, add textured mediums, use pallet knives, masking, and many more techinques.  I find texture, mark, speed, and movement to all be very expressional elements. I make paintings, not pictures, therefore I like to keep the paint gritty and remind the viewer that a painting is made by a human with a soul.

Stop by to view Woody Shepherd's newest works  on display through March 11, 2017.

Shonto Begay Artist Interview

Shonto Begay's exhibition, "Aje'Ji' | The Heart Way," opened at Modern West Fine Art for March's Gallery Stroll. During the artist discussion we had the chance to hear from Begay as he gave us insight into his process and past...

"I paint my dreams and things I know. When a Navajo child is born it's umbilical cord is cut, buried in the earth, to forever be embraced by the Mother. As long as I know where my cord is buried, I know I can go anywhere in the world and feel at home... as long as the umbilical cord is held, embraced by the earth, it is a magical thing."

"The landscapes, I know. This is the land that tempered me. I grew up to the rhythm of the chants, the prayers, and to the rhythm of weaving. I like sharing that, I like sharing not only the beauty, but the angst, the darkness, and the tribulation. There is a lot of it out there and painting is the way I transcend the shadows."

"I pay a lot of homage to my grandmother who taught me of my culture. Like the beautiful coming of age ceremony where we straighten spiritually, mentally, and physically. There are so many voices full of song and chanting. This is what we hear in life, this is what we are taught. Some days we encounter hardships and tribulations, that's when we must call back to the voices." -Shonto Begay

Nocona Burgess Artist Interview: The Legendary Plains

We were honored to feature newly represented artist Nocona Burgess for January's Gallery Stroll! Burgess is from Lawton, Oklahoma, and is the great-great-grandson of Chief Quanah Parker of the Comanche Nation. We had the opportunity to ask Burgess a few questions relating to his latest body of work The Legendary Plains...

They say, "Our past is what makes us who we are." You have traveled around the country throughout your youth and were exposed to a lot of different people and cultures. The Legendary Plains is a culmination of those experiences. Tell us more about this body of work and how it relates to your past.

The time line of The Legendary Plains is from the 1890's to 2016. I wanted to touch a bit on the history and diversity of the region, including some imagery from the past as well as contemporary images. I've lived and traveled throughout the Plains region; I've lived from Poplar, Montana, to Paris, Texas, traveled from Saskatchewan to Chihuahua and Coahuila. I mostly stuck with the imagery that was identifiable as "plains." In reality there is so much diversity in culture than I can show in just 15 paintings.

Studying at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA), you learned more about how traditional forms have evolved into more contemporary styles. Tell us more about your process and how it has evolved.

At the IAIA I found what was possible for contemporary Native artist and what it would take to begin a career. Seeing the artists that came through the school was sort of a stepping off point. I've seen the traditional form evolving to contemporary form before my time at IAIA. I grew up around art and my dad was going to college to studying the arts when I was young. My process really began at the University of New Mexico (UNM), under Nick Abdalla. I had always leaned toward contemporary paintings, probably from my dad, but as far as working on a true technique, I found that in an advanced painting class at UNM. During that time I was forced to develop my own process and vision. That's when I started painting on black primed canvas and painting almost in reverse. I call it painting outward.

You have an incredible approach to promoting the history of the Comanche Nation and various other tribes and their stories. How does your heritage influence your work?

I think being from a significant historical family and tribe has contributed to that, it really made me aware of history in general, as well as, my own tribe and family. I've always been an avid reader and from an early age just fell in love with history. I have the complete collection of the TimeLife old-west books. My granddad had given me a couple when I was young and it all went from there. Along the way my art and my love for history collided.

Kevin Kehoe: High West High

Following the successful opening at Modern West Fine Art, Kevin Kehoe's series Western Therapy traveled to the Southern Utah Museum of Art and continued to gain attention. We are excited to announce that his painting High West High has been acquired by the State of Utah to reside in their permanent collection.

The State of Utah has a long standing history of promoting the arts. In 1899, Representative Alice Merrill Horne sponsored a bill that lead to the creation of the State's art collection. In 1985, the Legislature passed the Utah Percent-for-Art Act, which designates a percentage of State construction costs to be used in commissioning, maintaining, and conserving art. The Utah Division of Arts & Museums strive to improve access to opportunities, and invest in communities, by strengthening the arts and their accessibility. Working along with the staff of the Division of Arts and Museums, the Art Acquistioin Committee reviews and recommneds Utah artists, and specific pieces of art, for placement to be confirmed by the Utah Arts Council, for the State's collection.

Alice Gallery will be hosting a free public reception for Collect, a collaboration that highlights works from the State of Utah's collection, and the Salt Lake County Public Art Program Collection, on February 17, from 6 to 9 p.m. There you may view Kehoe's High West High along with other newly acquired pieces. Collect will be on exhibit from January 20th to March 3rd, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

We want to congratulate Kevin Kehoe for his inclusion to the states artistic heritage! If you would like to learn more about Western Therapy or view more works from Kehoe please check out our webpage. 

Ben Steele's Artist Interview: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Modern West Fine Art is thrilled to have introduced Ben Steele's most recent body of work The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly! The exhibition is currently on display until January 13, 2017. Ben incorporates nostalgic imagery with iconic characters throughout his works. We asked him some questions on his process and thoughts behind this outstanding show...

Your exhibition The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly has a stylized western theme with many iconic personas. What inspired the selection of this theme and these characters?

I take a lot of pride in being from the west; the spatial and time freedom that comes with it, so getting to do a show focusing on some of those themes is extra cool for me. It's hard to picture the West without thinking of Western films and the whole cowboy and Indian stereotype, so I wanted to reflect  those notions and juxtapose them with branding and art commentary. Mostly, any time I take on a theme, it's just me having fun in the studio.

You use many different techniques of painting to achieve results that look like crayon or other mediums. Can you tell us about one or two of them?

I usually try not to impose my techniques on the painting, rather try to let the concept behind the painting impose on me how it should look. For example, the crayons became a very early theme in my work because they allowed the technical rendering of the scene, yet, I could mimic the way a child uses a crayon to almost an abstract effect. The technical stuff sets up with time and training but so much of it is also a trial and error process. A brush can be used to make a crayon mark but I found a q-tip replicated the thick and thinness of crayon on a page much better, the way it drags.

You had mentioned that when establishing your own style you were encouraged to paint what interested you. That was when the crayons and colored pencils started showing up in your work. What other themes or subject matter do you find showing up when you paint?

I find just about everything shows up in my work because I paint to the common thread of art or pop culture commentary. So, the fun part is that it can appear just about anywhere or on anything, whether it’s a studio still life, landscape or portrait. That’s been a saving part of my career in that it provides such a wide berth for change and growth in style and technique.

What artists inspire you and have influenced your work?

There are a lot! I look at the history of art as an accumulative whole, which makes most of the artists before me influences. My mentors David Dornan, John Erickson and Paul Davis hugely impacted my work because they shared their knowledge and voice to help me find my own. And historically, I’d say Vermeer, Warhol and Dali probably inspire me the most today but tomorrow the answer could be completely different.

We asked Ben what his words of advice would be for emerging artists: "Good instruction can't be overvalued and you have to put in your hours if you want to grow." If you have not had a chance to view The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly in person, stop by the gallery before its too late! The exhibition is currently on display until January 13, 2017.  

 

TedWomen 2016: Work in Progress by Jann Haworth

Jann Haworth's community-based mural project, Work in Progress, opened last month at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art. This project brought together various groups from Salt Lake City and surrounding communities to create stencils of women who were a catalyst for change. Jann Haworth and Liberty Blake then collaged the stencils into seven panels that are designed to be added to for when the show travels around the country. This important project recognizes the crucial roles that women have had throughout history and how they have shaped today's world. 

Since its opening, Work in Progress, has continued to gain notoriety and was selected to be featured at this year's TedWomen: 2016. Jann Haworth traveled to San Francisco last month to join the mural and host another workshop for the TedWomen participants. She had a successful turnout joined by those who are active participants in the strive for equality. The portraits created at the workshop will be added to an additional panel in the months to come. Work in Progress will continue to grow and move across the nation, with its next exhibition being located at the Brigham Young University Museum of Art in Provo, Utah.