Strohl exhibition showcases iconic images of American West

Amanda Mainguy | Staff Photographer
“Into the West,” opening today, features sculpture work by Geoffrey Gorman and paintings by Tracy Stuckey.

The artists featured in the “Into the West” exhibition all share a common inspiration: the grandeur of the American West.

Whether working in paint, photography or sculpture, they all utilize the settings and scenery, the animals, and the myths and folktales of the frontier.

“Into the West” opens at 3 p.m. today in the Strohl Art Center. The opening reception will be held from 3 to 5 p.m.

Painter Tracy Stuckey grew up in Florida but was always fascinated with the images of the West in the films he watched and the books he read. Once he moved to New Mexico, he began to examine and find inspiration in what he discovered to be “idealized” versions of the West he had grown up with.

“After living there for six years, you get sort of opened to the reality of it and how much it sort of is fictionalized and romanticized throughout history, so I got interested in that as a subject matter for the paintings,” he said.

Western folktales and archetypes also inspired his work. One painting in the exhibition is a depiction of the story of Pecos Bill, a “sort of Paul Bunyan of the West,” he said.

“I’m interested in how (the story is) blown out of proportion it is within film and literature and all that, and at the same time how we all kind of utilize that imagery in pop culture,” Stuckey said.

Geoffrey Gorman, a sculptor, built a horse from found and reclaimed materials specifically for the show, some of which come from the Western wilderness.

“Some of the material I used on the horse sculpture was old shelving from cabinets,” he said. “That’s what I made the base with — cedar sticks from the mountains around Santa Fe, mountain bike tires for the hooves.”

The work even includes bits and pieces of old horse tack, he said.

Though many of his sculptures are animals, Gorman had never done a horse until discussing the theme of the exhibition with VACI galleries director Judy Barie. After doing some research, he found his inspiration for the piece in antique toys.

“I was really attracted to some of these old antique pull toys that were maybe a hundred years old, so I kind of based the idea on an antique pull toy that had maybe been weathered and used by kids,” he said.

For photographer Dave Shumway, the West has always been a point of inspiration for him.

“What I really seem to have is a fascination with the West,” he said. “I was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, and after college I moved out to Montana because of my love for the American West, and I’ve been here since.”

The subjects of his photographs run from iconic and well-known landscapes to places that most people have never seen due to their remote locations.

“I find the most remote places, the most untouched places in the West that I can,” he said.

Sometimes these places take him months to find, but for him, it’s the setting he most likes to photograph.

“I make images that to me represent the places that I’m absolutely in love with,” he said.

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