Split between a pair of concurrently running exhibitions at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and Cartersville’s Booth Western Art Museum, the Wyoming museum’s artwork will enable patrons to view the development and progression of this artistic field. While the High Museum, from Nov. 3 to April 13, 2014, will showcase historic Western art from 1830 to 1930 in “Go West! Art of the American Frontier from the Buffalo Bill Center of the West,” the Booth will exhibit masterworks created over the last 50 years in “Today’s West! Contemporary Art from the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.”
Opening Thursday — the first day of Booth’s 11th annual Southeastern Cowboy Festival & Symposium — “Today’s West!” will be displayed in the Special Exhibition Gallery through April 13, 2014. Comprised of 62 pieces of artwork, the exhibit will be presented in three sections: Habitats & Inhabitants, Colliding Cultures and Faces of the West.
“It ranges from very detailed and almost photographic paintings of landscapes, wildlife and people to almost fully abstracted views of those same subjects,” Booth Executive Director Seth Hopkins said. “Every modern art movement in the last 50 years is represented somehow in the exhibition. I think there’s maybe three of four pieces that folks will be really interested to see. One is a portrait of a mountain lion called [‘Where Elegance Meets Fear’] by Tom Palmore. If you remember the Booth collection, there’s a huge white bull with a ring in his nose in front of a blanket. It’s that same artist. So it’s ultra-realistic. This cat’s just staring out of the canvas at you like he’s going to eat you but at the same time it’s pretty. It’s where the title [‘Where Elegance Meets Fear’] comes from.
“There’s [another] one called ‘Tumbleweeds’ that’s a really detailed landscape of an area there near Cody, Wyo., and it looks like you could walk right into it. The artist is one of the best landscape painters out there today and he’s very motivated by conservation. So he wants people to look at these landscapes and go, ‘Wow, [these are] incredible, we should protect those kinds of places in the United States.’ ... Then the third piece is much more contemporary. It’s called ‘Flight from Destiny’ by Bill Schenck who we have several pieces of in the Booth collection. It’s kind of a paint by numbers sort of style. It’s a rider on horseback looking behind him like people are chasing him. It’s just kind of popping off the canvas. ... So I think those three are ones that will kind of take people by surprise or captivate them.”
Along with its focus on living artists, the Booth museum also holds the distinction of housing the largest permanent exhibition of Western art in the nation. Of the “Today’s West!” exhibit’s 57 artists, 22 already have works in the Booth’s permanent collection.
“It’s somewhat similar to the permanent collection here at Booth museum,” Hopkins said. “It’s primarily living artists — it’s artwork created in the last 50 years, which is our primary collecting focus. ... There are a number of artists that are in both our permanent collection and in this exhibition. So on first blush, that might sound like a little redundant — ‘Then, why do it?’ But for many of these artists, they’re known to our membership by only the one or two pieces that we own and some of their work may be somewhat different.
“So bringing in these examples from another museum collection helps broaden your idea of who they are as an artist and what they have to say and the range of subjects that they may do. The other thing is that probably half the artists in our exhibition that we don’t have in our permanent collection, some of them have been in temporary exhibitions we have done but are not owned by the museum. So it’s a great opportunity to expose our members and guests to some artists they may not be as familiar with [but] they may be artists we do want to collect going forward.”
On display starting at 10 a.m. Thursday, “Today’s West!” will be featured in a Gallery Walk and Exhibit Reception at 4:30 p.m. The offering also will highlight “My West: The Art of Theodore Waddell,” which is on exhibit through Dec. 29. An impressionistic painter, Waddell will be the featured artist for the four-day Southeastern Cowboy Festival & Symposium and the speaker for Thursday’s Evening Lecture at 7 p.m.
For those seeking a more immersive study of “Today’s West!” four art lectures will be centered on the exhibit and the Buffalo Bill Center of the West Friday in the Booth Theatre: 10:30 a.m., “Why I Love Western Art, the Booth and the Buffalo Bill Center of the West!” by Alan K. Simpson, former Republican senator from Wyoming; 11:30 a.m., “Advance Work: Art and Advertising in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West” by Michelle Anne Delaney, director of the Smithsonian Institution’s Consortium for Understanding the American Experience; 2 p.m., “Go West! Art of the American Frontier from the Buffalo Bill Center of the West” by Stephanie Heydt, Margaret and Terry Stent Curator of American Art, High Museum of Art; and 3 p.m., “Today’s West! Contemporary Art from the Buffalo Bill Center of the West” by Mindy Besaw, curator of the Whitney Western Art Museum at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.
“Typically with the Symposium, it is based around the theme of whatever exhibit may be [on display] or opening,” said Tom Shinall, director of marketing for the Booth Western Art Museum. “For instance, last year we had the National Geographic exhibit and the [Symposium’s] art history lectures were based around the art of photography. So this year being the opening of the ‘Today’s West!’ exhibit from the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, the art history lectures are going to be based on that of Buffalo Bill and the art of the West through Buffalo Bill and the Center of the West.
“With the former senator from Wyoming, Alan Simpson, a curator from the Smithsonian Institute, a curator from the High [Museum of Art talking] about their exhibit and a curator from the Buffalo Bill Center to talk about our exhibit, it ties in really well the aspect or the theme of the new exhibit and what will be here for the next several months. So being able to tie all that together in a series of lectures for that Symposium on Friday, it’s going to be a big benefit to not only fans of Western art but also to historians and artists alike.”
With her lecture focusing on the Booth’s temporary exhibit, Besaw will provide patrons insight into “Today’s West!” and how the artists interpret the American West.
“I’m going to ... talk a little bit about enduring traditions, so how much of that art is responding and building upon Western American art of an earlier time period, but then also talking about how much it really does respond to life today in ways that marks it very differently from those earlier traditions,” Besaw said. “So that’s kind of a loose theme that will go through my talk. Then I’m going to pick out several to just talk a little bit more in-depth, because when you have that many artworks up in one exhibit sometimes certain ones don’t stand out. So I’m just going to highlight some of them that have pretty rich stories.
“I think one thing they should take away [from the exhibit] is the variety in responses to the American West today, so whether that is variations in style or a variety of even more conceptual approaches. How does Buffalo Bill, for example, still resonate? But [also] how he resonates incredibly differently for someone like Michael Scott [who created] a large full-length portrait of Buffalo Bill and others who might think of him more as a caricature. So I think the variety [of] ways in which people approach the subject is an overarching takeaway.”
While interest for “Today’s West!” is not expected to match that of the Booth’s “Ansel Adams: A Legacy” temporary exhibit, which drew record numbers from September 2010 through early 2011, Hopkins still anticipates a big turnout.
“The Buffalo Bill is probably the biggest and best museum in the Western world and is well-known by people all over the Southeast,” Hopkins said. “To not have to go to Cody, Wyo., which would take you a whole day getting there and a whole day getting back, the opportunity to see their incredible collection here in Atlanta, we do think is going to be very attractive to a lot of people.
“And then, specifically for the Booth, the opportunity to partner with the High Museum and the resources that they have. They have tens of thousands of members that are going to be hearing about our exhibition in cooperation with their exhibition. I certainly hope that a number of those folks will wander up here and see what we’re doing.”
Complimentary for museum members, the Southeastern Cowboy Festival & Symposium will be included with regular admission — $10 for adults, $8 for individuals 65 and older, $7 for students, $3 for children 12 and younger and free for active military personnel with ID — for non-members.
Along with the art history lectures, the event will provide a variety of activities — fast draw exhibitions, re-enactments of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, traditional American Indian dances, Western art and collectibles, living history encampments and concerts — from Thursday to Sunday, Oct. 27. While the majority of the offerings will be held on the Booth’s grounds at 501 Museum Drive, the festival’s featured entertainer, John Anderson, will perform at The Grand Theatre in Cartersville Saturday at 7 p.m. Tickets for the country music artist’s concert will be $30 for the general public and $25 for Booth members. For more information about the Booth and “Today’s West!” call 770-387-1300 or visit www.boothmuseum.org. Further details on the High Museum of Art’s “Go West!” exhibit can be obtained at www.high.org.