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Southwest’s best

From paints to cardboard, four artists interpret the meaning of the American Southwest for a new exhibition.

Molly Evans June 18th, 2013

Art of the American Southwest
through June 29
JRB Art at The Elms
2810 N. Walker

Jim Keffer’s Food for Thought

Using sculpture, photography, painting and cardboard, four artists created works to portray their individual perspectives of the American Southwest for JRB Art at The Elms’ current exhibition.

Joy Reed Belt, gallery owner and curator, selected artists Shirley Thomson-Smith, Jim Keffer, Jenny Gummersall and Jason Cytacki for the Art of the American Southwest show, which she hosts each June to coincide with the annual Prix de West brunch held at the gallery, in conjunction with the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.

This year’s brunch, held June 9, honored Thomson-Smith, a nationally renowned Prix de West artist for more than 20 years. Belt said Thomson-Smith contributed sculptures of American Indian and peasant women to the exhibition.

The artist does not use photographs or models for her work, but rather her imagination, Belt said. Thomson- Smith’s matriarchal and earthly sculptures represent sensitivity and women’s historical role as “the cornerstone of society and the passivity, intuition and stoicism on which civilization depends,” according to her website.

Shirley Thomson-Smith’s Femeninas
“[Visitors] tell me one of the things they enjoy in the large main gallery is the juxtaposition of the unusual patinas of the sculptures with the primitive Southwestern paintings,” Belt said.

Keffer, an Oklahoma City native and self-taught painter, is represented by 21 paintings depicting the landscape and architecture of rural Oklahoma, New Mexico and “anything west of I-35” through a “contemporary minimalism” style, he said.

“My connection is just to the land itself,” said Keffer, noting that he visits New Mexico throughout the year to paint on-site.

In contrast with his paintings of adobe houses and vast Santa Fe expanses, Colorado photographer Gummersall captures the smaller, “organic” details, such as snow on a horse’s coat, the fabric of worn chaps and a silhouette of a cowboy on horseback.

“Oklahoma is such a historic gateway to the West; it has such grit, fortitude and hope,” Gummersall said. “It is fitting that these images be shown in Oklahoma. The American West is a landscape of the American spirit.”

Jim Keffer’s Perry Farm House
Belt strove to illustrate the variety of the Southwest through the four artists’ work, and believes she succeeded.

“I want to show that the Southwest has a varied landscape, a varied color palette and varied symbolism,” she said.

An assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma Cytacki painted cardboard dioramas of mountainous, Southwestern landscapes. His recent work explores frontier mythology and its longevity in popular imagination, according to a news release.

All four artists have permanently featured pieces in the gallery as well, noted Belt, who coordinates her gallery’s monthly exhibitions nearly two years in advance. Each opens during The Paseo Arts District’s monthly First Friday Gallery Walks.

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