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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

Stephen Shore's Unique Spin on...
Stephen Shore's Unique Spin on Western Landscape Photography

Yes, they’re landscape photos. Yes, they’re from the West. Stephen Shore’s images of Montana, however, differ significantly from what is traditionally thought of as “Western landscape photography.” The genre of pictures birthed by Ansel Adams. The kind found in thousands of galleries from San Antonio to Seattle and everywhere in between over the past half century. Scenic. Grandiose....

Intersect Aspen Art and Design...
Intersect Aspen Art and Design Fair Returns with a Local Flavor

Galleries and collectors from around the world will descend upon Aspen, CO July 30 through August 3, 2024, for the annual Aspen Art Week. The Intersect Aspen Art and Design Fair again serves as one of the headlining attractions. New this year to the city’s signature modern and contemporary art fair is the addition of “design” to the event’s title, signifying the inclusion of top international contemporary design galleries to the mix of roughly 30 retailers from as far away as South Korea. A full calendar is planned for this year’s fair, formerly known as Art Aspen, including a VIP...

Vladem Contemporary Examines Closing Decades...
Vladem Contemporary Examines Closing Decades of 20th Century Art in New Mexico

New Mexico has been a destination for artists since before New Mexico was a state. Statehood arrived in 1912, long after Joseph Henry Sharp’s first came to Taos from “back East” in 1893. Five years later, Ernest Blumenschein and Bert Phillips made the journey. None expected to stay long. All did. Sharp, Blumenschein, and Phillis, along with E. Irving Couse, Oscar E. Berninghaus, and W. Herbert Dunton would form the Taos Society of Artists in 1915. Others would join them. Gustave Bauman moved to Santa Fe in 1918. Los Cinco Pintores followed, forming in 1921. Most famously, Georgia O’Keeffe began...

Benjamin Harjo Jr. and the...
Benjamin Harjo Jr. and the Paradox of Success

Benjamin Harjo Jr’s success came at a cost to his legacy. What he made, people bought. All of it. All the time. Throughout a 50-plus year career. Art was more than a passion for him, it was a profession. How he fed his family. He faithfully attended Santa Fe Indian Market and Red Earth festival in Oklahoma City along with other select shows, cultivating a collector base that scarfed up his work. He paid his mortgage selling artworks, that was the point. Being so successful, he didn’t have to promote himself. He didn’t need a gallery to promote his work,...

Speed Art Museum in Louisville...
Speed Art Museum in Louisville Presents Some of the Earliest Photos of the American West

They are among the earliest photographs of the West. Timothy O’Sullivan’s pictures of what would become Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. Famous places: the Grand Canyon, Zuni Pueblo, Shoshone Falls, ID, Snake River, ID, Canyon de Chelly. O’Sullivan (born in Ireland, about 1840–1882) was part of an 1871 government-sponsored expedition lead by Lieutenant George Wheeler surveying and documenting the territories west of the 100th meridian, a longitudinal line running straight down the Great Plains from present day North Dakota to Texas. In his photographs, O’Sullivan created carefully constructed images conveying the ruggedness, vast scale, and the natural grandeur...

Redding, CA's Sundial Bridge Celebrates...
Redding, CA's Sundial Bridge Celebrates 20th Anniversary

Why was one of the world’s foremost architects – living in Switzerland at the time – interested in designing a bridge halfway across the world in unknown Redding, CA? That’s a good story. Located between Sacramento and the Oregon border on Interstate 5, Redding wanted a pedestrian bridge spanning the Sacramento River, linking Turtle Bay Museum to its arboretum and river trail. The city aspired to more than a basic concrete expanse the government was offering. A small citizens committee was formed to elicit bids on the project and pick a winner. After interviewing three architects, the group had reached...

Cannupa Hanksa Luger Brings Bison...
Cannupa Hanksa Luger Brings Bison Sculpture to Manhattan

No symbol of the American West is more iconic than the buffalo. The bison to be scientific – Bison bison. The classic silhouette. Sun-bleached skull on the prairie. CM Russell’s signature. The Yellowstone buffalo. Buffalo tribes. Buffalo Bill. The bison stands as a keystone species across the West ecologically and symbolically. Culturally, too. Bison paintings and sculptures fill western art museums, galleries, and public spaces. Their representation is especially pronounced in Native American artwork from the Plains region where Indigenous people relied on the animal for food, clothing, shelter and tools. Buffalo, it has been said, were the grocery store...

Alexandre Hoge: America's First Environmental...
Alexandre Hoge: America's First Environmental Activist Painter

I consider Alexandre Hogue America’s first environmental activist artist. Members of the 19th century Hudson River School painters commented on deforestation and increasing industrialization in New England, but not with Hogue’s direct artistic assault on man’s assault on nature. They lacked his blunt force. His condemnation. A 21st century reading of Hudson River School artists could miss their message about how what was once wilderness – or close to it – had succumb to farming and logging, and how that might not be a great thing one day. Their landscapes remain beautiful down through the years. Idyllic today. No such...

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 first opportunity to spend time with his artwork up close earlier this month at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, AR. He’s prominently featured during its current exhibition, “Space Makers: Indigenous Expression and a New American Art.” Included in...

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....