By Hart, Jane
Art Business News , Vol. 33, No. 7
Both artists and gallery owners agree that the concept of "Southwest art" is hardly a purist notion. "Southwest art" is an umbrella term that includes a collection of art that is as vast and varied as the places in the world that now sell i this genre. Jewelry, pottery, paintings and sculpture created by both traditional and contemporary artists of the Southwest may be found in the region's well-known art destinations such as Santa Fe, Taos, Scottsdale, Sedona and other locales. But increasingly, consumers can find Southwest art in galleries around the world. A collector can stop in a gallery in New York and buy a Native American Indian piece of pottery just as easily as they can purchase a painting of the desert landscape in Santa Fe.
Artists and art dealers alike agree that the market for purchasing Southwest art is more global than ever before.
What It Is
The Southwest consists mainly of Arizona and New Mexico. Texas and Oklahoma are generally considered part of the Southwest as well. And Colorado, Utah and Nevada are also often included.
The foundation of traditional and contemporary art created in this region is certainly influenced by the traditions of indigenous cultures and also Spanish populations that have inhabited these areas. But Southwest art today has become about much more than Native American jewelry or landscapes of the desert cacti, and it encompasses a wide range of expressive creations that includes new translations of Southwest culture by contemporary artists using a variety of mediums.
"Although 'Southwest art' used to refer to landscapes and genre paintings of cowboys and Native American peoples of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, it has gradually come to encompass much more," according to Wolfgang Mabry, Fine Art Consultant for Ventana Fine Art, Santa Fe, NM. "Today the term includes still lifes, abstracts and genre paintings of contemporary life in the urban Southwest."
"Galleries here in Santa Fe now also offer paintings by European, Russian and Asian artists, many of whom now live in the Southwest," says Mabry. "All media are well represented, in painting, printmaking and sculpture. The Southwest art term will likely never exclude cowboy, Indian and landscape subjects, but rather it will just keep including more as the demographics and lifestyles evolve over time."
Kristin Wood, art director for Joan Cawley Gallery, Ltd., Tempe, AZ, adds, "I would define Southwest art in broad terms as art from the Southwestern region of the U.S. However, it is also characterized by some very distinct features, indicative of the region, that contribute to making it more recognizable."
"Southwest art may be defined by locale--vast canyons, desert cacti, outdoor markets, architecture--but most distinctive is the use of color--not one or two shades, but many shades with a level of vibrancy and intensity that radiates throughout a piece of artwork," says Wood. "In essence, color is what the Southwest is known for, be it a dramatic desert sunset, vibrant desert wildflowers, or the colors that fill the streets during an outdoor fiesta."
Marilynn Spiegel, director of the Joan Cawley Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ, agrees that vibrant color is one of the most important aspects of Southwest art. "The desert is brown, so colors are an integral part of Southwest art," says Spiegel.
Of course, for consumers, many images evoke the notion of Southwest--desert landscapes, cowboys, Native Americans, wildlife, chili peppers, rich colors, Georgia O'Keeffe's flowers and cow's skulls. These are the very images that continue to serve as the inspiration for the creation of what has come to be known as Southwest art.
Legendary and contemporary artists have been drawn to the Southwest for inspiration that comes readily from the alluring landscape, abundant wildlife and rich historical past.
Amy Ringholz, an artist chosen by Southwest Art magazine as an artist to watch for 2005, put down a life as an art teacher and Web designer in the Midwest and moved to Jackson Hole, WY, where she now paints full time. …