Prix de West exhibit paints a picture of the American West 

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Defining the American West is not easy. “Frontier,” “dangerous” and “inspirational” describe the phrase that is both a land mass and an ever-changing idea, as the West was once thought to be anything across the Appalachian Mountains.

The one word most agree with is “big.” It also is largely untamed. Nighttime satellite photos of the United States depict large swaths of land unadulterated by artificial light.

The American West is truly continental. Cowboys roam the lands of British Columbia and south of the Rio Grande just as they do the grass of Wyoming. The concept, like the geography, of the American West is so varied and large, maybe the best way to defining is not with words, but art.

The 44th edition of Prix de West Invitational Exhibition & Sale returns this month to National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum and offers an array of American West interpretations. Ninety-eight of the country’s finest contemporary Western artists participate in the celebration featuring seminars and demonstrations, luncheons, a fixed-price draw for art, a live auction and an awards dinner.

More than 300 works are part of the exhibition, which is on display through Aug. 7.

Prix de West addresses the relevance of the American West and its art.

“There’s this sense very often that the West is a subject of the past, when really the West is very much a front-and-center conversation for our nation and our even our continent today and into the future,” said Steven Karr, museum president and CEO. “It’s the idea behind the art — representational art, landscape art, figurative art. It’s speaking to Western traditions that still live.”

Prestige

Prix de West represents prestige like few other events in the American Western art world and are red-letter days for those working in the genre.

Landscape artist Andrew Peters of Council Bluffs, Iowa, a 10-year exhibition participant and 2015 Prix de West Purchase Award winner, praised the event and the museum for its efforts.

“Everything about the National Cowboy Museum represents what’s good in the world,” he said. “That award is something that is the highest expectation I could have had, and I don’t know what would be better than this. It is something I cherish and I’m humbly grateful for.”

As winner of the Purchase Award, Peter’s piece “The Lake of Glass,” an oil on canvas painting depicting a scene in Rocky Mountain National Park, is now part of the museum’s permanent collection. He received the purchase price for the piece, an award of $5,000 and the Prix de West medallion.

Peters shares a 45-minute seminar presentation, What the Traveller Saw: A Circuitous Route to Prix de West, 10 a.m. June 11 at the museum. It revolves around what he has learned throughout his career, particularly painting outdoors and traveling with equipment through foreign countries.

Oklahoma City artist and 22-year veteran of the event Sherrie McGraw moderates a seminar panel, Figurative Art: A Conversation Among Friends, 1 p.m. June 10 at the museum.

“I think we’ll probably find out a lot about why they have been attracted to [painting] the figure,” McGraw said. “Probably more about their process about how they do what they do.”

McGraw said the exhibition also is a key event for artists to meet the country’s top collectors. Along with Peters, McGraw spoke of the museum’s professionalism and her appreciation.

“The museum really does run a first-rate show,” she said. “They treat the artists royally and the collectors as well. … I can’t sing their praises enough.”

Fundraising

Prix de West also serves as a premier fundraising event for the museum. Each year, the exhibition raises an average of $1 million for the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.

Approximately 1,000 tickets are sold for the event.

Describing Prix de West as a fly-in event, Karr said it showcases the best of the city to people from all over the United States.

“It’s an opportunity for people to visit our fair city,” he said, “an opportunity to see how our city has evolved, how it’s grown and how it is seeking to create its own place on the national stage. As a leader in things like downtown redevelopment, and as a state and city to define itself beyond simply the energy sector.”

For more information on the seminars, sale and exhibition, visit nationalcowboymuseum.org.

Print headline: Past presence, The Prix de West Invitational Exhibition & Sale returns for its 44th year.

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