Putting art before the horse

Studio Gallery 27 explores the New West with upcoming show

As our society changes, art should adapt in a way that honors the past while incorporating the present and the future. It's a simple concept with a complicated creative response.

Susan Schiesser, owner of Studio Gallery 27, hosts a new art exhibit that explores the integration of traditional western art into a modern architectural setting.





¤ New Western Art: A 21st Century Perspective exhibit¤ 5 to 8 p.m. opening reception Saturday. 10 a.m. Sunday is the artists' coffee talk¤ Studio Gallery 27 in Ski Time Square¤ Free¤ 879-6114

"Cowboys and their horses, ranch life and the stories and images of the great American West are the familiar icons of Western art," Schiesser said. "As our rural lifestyle in Steamboat adapts to the influx of technology and progress, an urbanized perception of Western nostalgia comes with it."

Oil painter Michael Dow--ling will show a series of Western landscapes in the exhibit. They portray Southern Colorado along Interstate 25, but they depict a young country on an ancient land.

"They are all dealing with how we became American and went West and experience the West," Dowling said. "It's an interesting thing to be so young in this country and society and have all the things that we do."

Dowling found his influence after living in Florence, Italy, for three years, where some of the buildings were more than 1,000 years old.

"To make that shift and come back here and see this new society is so weird," he said. "I love it."

His landscape oil paintings are more traditional than Brent Spaulding's acrylic paintings of his interpretation what the essence of being an American involves. Spaulding paints the well-recognized icon of he cowboy, because it is a contrast of myth and historical reality.

"Living by a moral code of honor, the cowboy's story is the struggle for independence," Spaulding said. "His image is the embodiment of strength and masculinity for a culture based on idealism."

Spaulding strips his images of the cowboy to nearly unrecognizable figures. He does this to strip the cowboy of its stereotype.

"Two different people can look at the image of the silhouette of a cowboy and have the feeling of pride or independence or exploring the West," he said. "Another person might think of genocide, sexism and horrific violence. It covers the whole extreme range of emotion."

The emotional response is what Sandie Ihlenfeldt strives for in her computer assemblage imagery.

"I want my work to be a little bit more provocative," Ihlenfeldt said. "I want the image to cause the person to come back and look at it again."

Ihlenfeldt's integrated artistic vision incorporates the emerging lifestyle changes in a Western incubator.

Much like the conversation about photography being considered fine art at the turn of the century, Ihlenfeldt said there is an ongoing conversation in the art world examining the point at which digitally created work becomes fine art.

"I feel like this work has crossed the line," Ihlenfeldt said.

Michelle Ideus has her own method of making Western art contemporary. She uses the Western icon of the horse as a vehicle to create acrylic mixed media colleagues on canvas.

"The stories about people and their horses are forever," Ideus said. "They can go on and on the more information I get from their owner."

Her work reflects how those stories flourish and contain a personal history, but Ideus does not consider her work Western art.

"I don't really like Western art because it is so much in your face and boring, and I've seen it before," Ideus said. "I'm figuring how to make something like that exciting again."

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