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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

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...

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...

'Lighting Pathways' exhibition installation. Photo...
Meet the Matriarchs of Oklahoma Native Art

Oklahoma ranked last among all states and the District of Columbia in a study of best places to live for women published by Wallethub.com on February 26, 2024. The publication researched 25 key quality of living indicators including financial, social and health outcomes. Rest assured, most of those outcomes for Native women in Oklahoma would be even worse, mirroring national data consistently showing Native women experience greater hardship across a broad spectrum of lifestyle markers than other women. Keep this in mind should you visit the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City’s new exhibition highlighting seven living...

Nampeyo of Hano, Hopi, 1860-1942;...
With Gilcrease Museum closed, collection highlights go on tour

With the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa midway through construction on a new building, its world-class collection of Native American art hits the road for the first time on a three-stop tour around the nation. Debuting earlier this month at the Ackland Art Museum at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C., “Past Forward: Native American Art from Gilcrease Museum” surveys more than 3,000 years of Native American art showcasing the extensive collection of Indigenous art amassed by Thomas Gilcrease (1890 –1962), oil tycoon, arts patron and a citizen of the Muscogee Nation. The Gilcrease Museum is distinct for...

Remembering Ed Mell
Remembering Ed Mell

Contemporary Western art lost a giant last week with the passing of Ed Mell (1942–2024) on February 21 at age 81. No adjective, however, not giant or legend or icon or titan, seems adequate in explaining his influence on the genre. Ed Mell was contemporary Western art. His dramatic, angular, reduced landscapes – often featuring his native Arizona – helped show how non-representational painting could simultaneously honor the genre’s traditions and engage with Modern art trends – Cubism, Minimalism, Art Deco. He was Western and contemporary when many galleries, museums and collectors thought an artist had to choose one or...

Artists take up the call...
Artists take up the call of protecting California's Giant Kelp forests

A warming planet means warming waters, too. With all the climate induced heat waves, forest fires and floods wreaking havoc on land – where we live – it’s easy to forget humanity’s carbon emissions are having an equally devastating impact on marine life. On coral reefs and fish, and off the California coast, Giant Kelp. The Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institute of Oceanography at UC San Diego in La Jolla has enlisted a trio of local artist/scientists to reinforce this connection during the exhibition, “Hold Fast,” on view through Labor Day 2024. Guests weave through a labyrinth of cyanotype-printed giant...

A fresh breeze blows through...
A fresh breeze blows through Western Art: Malcolm Myers

“New old stock” describes old material in new condition. Vintage and pristine. Pickers use the phrase when finding classic car parts still in the original factory box or baseball card collectors come across unopened packs from 40 or 50 years ago. Jason Howard made an amazing discovery of new old stock western paintings sorting through Malcolm Myers’ (1917-2002) St. Paul, MN studio. Contained within, secured in a giant flat file under scores of papers, were more than 1500 watercolors depicting cowboys, Native Americans, buffalos, landscapes, horses, and teepees all produced with unique, loose brushwork in a remarkably fresh and vivid...

Jody Guralnick's lichen paintings bring...
Jody Guralnick's lichen paintings bring overlooked worlds into view

Western art specializes in the monumental: mountains, canyons, mesas. Jody Guralnick specializes in the microscopic: lichen, mold, mushrooms. Guralnick’s (b. 1953) interest in the small began as a child during summers on Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard. She loved nosing around the tidal pools where a careful observer can find a complete universe within a few square feet. From her home in Boston, Guralnick ventured to London for art school and then additional training at Pratt Institute in New York. She kept looking down, continually fascinated by what most never saw.   Jody Guralnick, ‘Inflorescence,’ 2023; oil on wood panels....

What is Western Art?
What is Western Art?

Cowboys, cattle, and cactus. Buffalo, bears, and bluebonnets. Mountains, valleys, and mesas. And horses. What is Western art? What is this thing it’s safe to say everyone reading this has a deep love and passion for? An exhibition of Laura Aguilar’s photography at the Phoenix Art Museum has me thinking more deeply about that question than ever before. Aguilar (1959–2018) is from Southern California. That’s western.   Laura Aguilar, Center #98, 2000-2001. Gelatin silver print. Copyright Laura Aguilar Trust of 2016. The pictures she’s best known for feature Southwestern landscapes. That’s western. Large format black and white images honoring the...