Horses in the American West: Portrayals by Twenty-Four Artists

Horses in the American West: Portrayals by Twenty-Four Artists

Horses in the American West: Portrayals by Twenty-Four Artists

Horses in the American West: Portrayals by Twenty-Four Artists


Images of working cowhands and their horses loom large in the mind's eye of many who love the American West. Those same images form the heart and soul of this lavishly illustrated book, which captures the viewpoints, values, and observations of twenty-four respected contemporary artists. The artists' own words illuminate the painting, sculpture, photography, and drawings of these award-winning, supremely creative individuals, allowing readers a glimpse into their creative processes.

As Heidi Brady and Scott White demonstrate, these Western artists came to their work in a wide variety of ways. Some are studio-trained and learned to portray horses through formal classes; others simply began creating art on their own, learning through visual and tactile study of the horses they worked with each day. The two dozen artists profiled here include ranch owners, working hands, professional photographers, rodeo cowboys, art instructors, graphic designers, a saddle maker, and a former predator hunter.

Readers will delight in these remarkable paintings, drawings, photographs, and sculptures depicting the freedom and spirit of the American West.


In his 1854 Walden, Thoreau gave us a metaphor worth puzzling over. “My head,” he quipped with seriousness, “is hands and feet.” Thoreau did not hold our hands here and say something tamer (he was rarely tame), such as “My head is like my hands and feet.” Instead, he discarded the easy simile for the stark and more cryptic metaphor, insisting on “is.” the question—about the relation between the intellectual or artistic work of the mind and the grittier, more physical work of the hands—figures prominently throughout American literature and emerges front and center here, in written and artistic images of the American West. in an attempt to clarify this point about the intrinsic connections between thinking and labor, Thoreau’s conclusion to Walden further advises us to “[d]rive a nail home and clinch it so faithfully that you can wake up in the night and think of your work with satisfaction—a work at which you would not be ashamed to invoke the Muse.” For Thoreau, to separate the activities—and worlds—of “faith,” the “Muse,” and labor is to underwrite a dangerous separation between intricately connected parts of life. To work well is to labor with faith and to invoke worlds of art. His vision can inspire much in daily life and is particularly apt as a segue into considering how labor, craft, and art combine in everyday settings in the lands west of the hundredth meridian.

In this first book in American Wests, a series sponsored by West Texas A&M University, Heidi Brady and Scott White offer an extension of Thoreau’s logic and a unique contribution to the world of working att in the American West. Sometimes a book is best defined by leaning on contrast. This collection—of painting, drawing, photography, and sculpture— does not constitute only a compelling collection of equine images; neither does it solely pay tribute to American cowboy culture; nor, finally, does it stake out a claim about overarching traditions in Western American art. Many worthy authors and critics have scouted those trails with memorable and lasting results. Instead, Brady and White offer a compilation of first-hand profiles of many Wests—working and aesthetic, everyday and legendary. the Westerners in these pages are ranchers, cowboys and cowgirls, rodeo competitors, preachers, saddle makers, hunters, rawhide braiders, sculptors, and songwriters. the camera, paintbrush, and pencil, along with lyrics and sermons, fence posts and bucking chutes make up the visuals; but the makers themselves tell their stories.

One could call this an eclectic book about an eclectic West. Another might be rightly tempted to call it a book about an authentic West, or perhaps a real West. I prefer to call it a book about the lived and the working West—told by those who paint, draw, photograph, and sculpt its life; who lyricize and tell of its beauty and challenges; who preach its daily lessons; and who carve, braid, and build the gear that gets the work done with dignity. Finally, it is a book that, through portraits of working relations between human and . . .

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