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Essential West Magazine

Exploring Art, Literature, History, Museums, Lifestyle, and Cultures of the West

It amazes me that four letters - W-E-S-T - have the ability to evoke an instantaneous emotional image. Simply the act of reading these four letters has caused you to form a narrative of your west.

Can the West be distilled to its essence - a simple direction or region? I believe not; it is a deeper dive of consciousness. How America sees itself and the world defines us. Diverse cultures, strong individualism, open spaces, and raw natural beauty marinated in a roughshod history have formed this region’s unique milieu.

Our online magazine’s primary focus is to feature relevant topics in art, literature, history, museums, lifestyle, and culture; lofty goals for any publication. No single magazine can be the beckon of all things western; it is a diverse, evolving paradigm that cannot be pigeonholed. As the publisher, I hope to be the buffalo that grazes the wide expanse of western sensibility and relay to you a glimpse of how I perceive our Essential West.

- Mark Sublette

Featured Article

Remembering the Colorful Life and...
Remembering the Colorful Life and Art of Benjamin Harjo Jr.

Benjamin Harjo Jr. (Absentee Shawnee/Seminole; 1945–2023) died a year ago May 20. I remember reading his many obituaries at the time. Despite my interest in Native American art, I didn’t know anything about him other than his name which I’d run across a time or two in my reading. I’ve been thinking about Harjo recently after having my...

A Visit to the Oklahoma...
A Visit to the Oklahoma City Museum of Art

I made my first visit to the Oklahoma City Museum of Art in May of 2024. The modestly sized museum has fine holdings of mostly 20th century American art and boasts one of the largest collections of Dale Chihuly glass anywhere in the world. I found myself especially drawn to four Western landscapes. The museum doesn’t specialize in Western art, but these items would hold their weight among the best from the genre. Each shares a fascinating story in addition to their aesthetic appeal. Oscar Brousse Jacobson, The Needles, Colorado Desert (1923) Oscar Brousse Jacobson, 'The Needles, Colorado Desert,' 1923....

Inside Anita Fields' studio at...
In the Studio with Anita Fields

Tulsa’s First Friday Art Crawl opens galleries, museums, and artist studios downtown from 6:00 to 9:00 PM on the first Friday of every month. Most of the artists working at the Tulsa Artist Fellowship’s Archer Studios (109 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.) and greeting visitors are up-and-comers. One is a legend: Anita Fields (Osage/Muscogee; b. 1951). Close up look at items inspiring and informing Anita Fields inside her studio. I visited Fields in her studio at TAF on the first Friday of May 2024. Our conversation centered on the time she spent at the Institute of American Indian Arts in...

Keeper of the Plains sculpture...
Blackbear Bosin's 'Keeper of the Plains' Sculpture Celebrates 50 Years in Wichita

Wichita’s Keeper of the Plains sculpture celebrates 50 years with a daylong schedule of events May 18, 2024. Completed by Blackbear Bosin (1921–1980) and erected on May 18, 1974, the installation has become a symbol for the city and a tribute to the Native American tribes who continue gathering at the sacred site. The Keeper of the Plains stands at the confluence of the Big and Little Arkansas rivers in downtown with hands raised in supplication to the Great Spirit–a manifestation of Wichita’s enduring spirit.   Keeper of the Plains sculpture along the riverfront in Wichita. Photo Credit Visit Wichita.   Bosin...

Artwork detail of Jeffrey Gibson...
Jeffrey Gibson's U.S. Pavilion at Venice Biennale Took Root in the West

Jeffrey Gibson knows you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. He draws people in with vivid, joyful colors and fantastical geometric designs. Beauty as an entry point. Then he hits them with colonization’s lasting impact on Native Americans and the country’s endless list of failed promises. Gibson, (b. 1972), a member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and of Cherokee descent, became the first Native American artist to represent the United States with a solo exhibition at the Venice Biennale – the Olympics of contemporary art – when “the space in which to place me” opened on April...

Danielle SeeWalker and Carlotta Cardana...
Danielle SeeWalker and Carlotta Cardana share contemporary photos of Native America

Walking the Red Road. Living life with purpose, in good relation, on a path to positive change. The expression can be heard around Indian Country. Artists Danielle SeeWalker (Hunkpapa and Oglala Lakota) and Carlotta Cardana founded the Red Road Project in 2013, committed to documenting the stories and teachings of contemporary Native people enacting positive change and celebrating their cultural heritage. Walking the Red Road. The project forwards Native voices, providing a platform for telling their own stories in their own words. Highlights of what SeeWalker and Cardana have found can be seen at the Bedford Gallery in Walnut Creek,...

Sasquatch as You've Never Seen...
Sasquatch as You've Never Seen Him Before

The silhouette of a supposed Bigfoot captured in the famed 1967 Patterson-Gimlin film showing a large, hairy, long-striding, bipedal, ape-like creature striding across a dry riverbed in northern California has become ubiquitous across America. While never officially debunked, the recording is almost surely a scam and popular recreations of Bigfoot, or Sasquatch, descended from the film have turned the legend into a cryptozoological Santa Claus. Over the past 30 years, the Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot silhouette has shown up on t-shirts, bumper stickers, key chains, beer cans, lawn ornaments and every other imaginable tchotchke for sale along roadsides from coast-to-coast. It has...

Maynard Dixon, ‘Wild Horse Country...
Maynard Dixon's Vision of Nevada

Ask me what I like most about Maynard Dixon and without hesitation I’ll tell you his Western landscapes. Yet for the second time writing about a Dixon exhibition for “Essential West,” it is a figurative painting of his that most captivates me. Tired Men from 1934 was produced as part of a commission Dixon (1875 – 1946) received from the federal Public Works of Art Project, a government program offering artists jobs to help keep them afloat during the Great Depression. Dixon’s job was documenting construction of the Boulder Dam, now known as the Hoover Dam, not far from Las...

Paint Mixtures in Stephen Datz'...
These Four Colors Started Stephen C. Datz' Painting Career

Cadmium yellow medium, cadmium orange, alizarin crimson, and ultramarine blue deep. When Stephen C. Datz began trying his hand as a plein air oil painter, those were the only four colors he used. And titanium white. Stephen C. Datz - Ephemeral and Eternal, Oil on Canvas, 30" x 60"   More than a quarter century later into one of contemporary Western art’s most successful careers, he still remembers them. “I did that on the advice of a fellow painter, who is a master; Ned Jacob suggested I paint with a limited palette because he said it's going to make you...

Closeup of Installation view of...
Step Inside Georgia O'Keeffe's Ghost Ranch Studio

Georgia O’Keeffe had studios in Abiquiú, NM and on her Ghost Ranch property 15 miles away. Through June 2, 2024, she also has one in Montreal. Canada. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has meticulously recreated O’Keeffe’s Ghost Ranch studio with original and replica furnishings thanks to an unprecedented partnership with the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe. O’Keeffe’s studio notably includes her original easel and an unfinished painting, as well as brushes she trimmed herself, pastels that she made herself, her paint cards for recording her precise colors, and even her tools for stretching her canvases. The replica appears...