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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....

Denver Museums Display Two Widely...
Denver Museums Display Two Widely Varied Viewpoints of Western Art

Charles Marion Russell defines the tradition of Western art. He doesn’t follow the tradition; he established the tradition. Exquisitely rendered oil paintings, sketches and bronze sculptures of horses, cowboys, ranchers, gunfights, and Native Americans. In November of 1921, C.M. Russell (1864-1926) and his wife Nancy (1878-1940) made their only known trip to Denver from their home in Montana. They were being hosted by the legendary Brown Palace Hotel downtown for a two-week showcase of Russell’s artwork.   'The Russells in Denver, 1921' exhibition installation view at Denver Art Museum | Photo by Chadd Scott   In an ongoing exhibition at...

Chihuly, Calder and the Northwest...
Chihuly, Calder and the Northwest Coast: Art Across Seattle

I hadn’t been to Seattle in over 20 years before returning for a tour of the Seattle Art Museum’s new Alexander Calder exhibition in November of 2023. I was looking forward to binging as much art as possible on my five-day visit. I try to be cost conscious and carbon conscious when traveling. Not always easy, sometimes not even possible. The best way to achieve both is by using mass transit. With no advance preparation, I was easily able to use Seattle’s various light rail, monorail and streetcar lines to navigate my way quickly and inexpensively around the downtown core....

Dorothea Lange's 'Death of a...
Dorothea Lange's 'Death of a Valley' photographs on view at Booth Western Art Museum

Agriculture is a $50-plus billion business in California, greater than any other state, nearly double that of its nearest competitor, Iowa. Grapes, milk, cattle, almonds, oranges, pistachios, tomatoes. More than 24,000,000 acres of the Golden State are covered by almost 70,000 farms, nearly a quarter of its landmass. California creates almost 13% of all agricultural production in the United States, making it the fifth largest supplier of food and wearable textiles in the world by itself. All those farms and ranches and crops need water. Billions of gallons of water. Without irrigation, California’s agriculture industry would go belly up within...

Acts of Faith: Religion in...
Acts of Faith: Religion in the American West

How did religion become a vital and contested part of American life? That’s the question, and for the answer, the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library looked West. It considered Native peoples, Protestant missionaries, Mormon settlers, Catholic communities, African American migrants, Jewish traders, and Chinese immigrant workers. It pushed beyond the mythologized “Wild West” of popular culture and found a fuller and surprising picture: a West populated by preachers, pilgrims, and visionaries, home to sacred grounds and cathedrals that kindled spiritual feeling from the woodlands of New York all the way to the valleys of California.   C.C.A. Christensen (1831–1912),...

The American West as seen...
The American West as seen through the experiences and artwork of Chinese American artists

Queering the cowboy at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver. A focus on Black cowboys at the Harwood Museum of Art in Taos. The “forgotten men” of the Great Depression at the BYU Art Museum. In 2023 alone, museums across the West and those focused on the West have made great strides in expanding the stories they’re telling. This newfound emphasis goes beyond the traditional chuckwagon and cattle drive to include a more comprehensive set of experiences.   James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art 'From Far East to West' installation view. Courtesy of The James Museum   The...

Gorman Museum of Native American...
Gorman Museum of Native American Art celebrating 50th anniversary and new building

Visitors to the new Gorman Museum of Native American Art on the campus of the University of California, Davis are greeted by a large, circular artwork at the entrance based upon Native American basketry designs. The piece was created by Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie (Seminole, Muscogee, Diné), who in addition to being an artist, is the museum’s director and a professor in UC Davis’ Department of Native American Studies.   Gorman Museum of Native American Art at UC Davis exterior. Courtesy of the museum   The pavilion honors the late Bertha Wright Mitchell (1936-2018), a Patwin basket weaver who in the late...

See history in person as...
See history in person as 'The Great Wall of Los Angeles' is expanded at LACMA

Spanning 2,754-feet along the Tujunga Flood Control Channel, a tributary of the Los Angeles River in North Hollywood, The Great Wall of Los Angeles shares the region’s story from pre-history through the 1950s. It focuses on area’s Chicano and Latinx, Asian American, African American, Native American, Jewish, female, and working-class populations often omitted from populist retellings. It is among the greatest public art pieces in the world. The epic comes from the mind and hand of Judy Baca (b. 1946; Los Angeles) who completed the epic along with a team of hundreds of Los Angelenos over five summers from between...

Molly Murphy Adams beadwork featured...
Molly Murphy Adams beadwork featured in "Reservation Dogs" and "Killers of the Flower Moon"

Molly Murphy Adams corn husk bag. Courtesy of the artist and Missoula Art Museum When Molly Murphy Adams (b.1977; Great Falls, MT, descendant, Oglala/Lakota) moved from Montana to Tulsa 13 years ago she could never have expected it would lead her to Hollywood. She didn’t go to Hollywood as much as Hollywood came to her. Tulsa and eastern Oklahoma were critical filming and production locations for both the FX hit TV series “Reservation Dogs,” and the Martin Scorsese-directed movie “Killers of the Flower Moon” starring Robert DiNiro and Leonardo DiCaprio. Adams provided beadwork for both projects. What, specifically, she produced,...

Southwestern art as imagined by...
Southwestern art as imagined by Chicano and Latinx artists

Daisy Quezada Ureña, Study no.1, 2016, Porcelain in Sonoran Desert. Courtesy of the artist, © Daisy Quezada Ureña The same, but different. “Son de Allá y Son de Acá,” on view at the Chicano Park Museum and Cultural Center in San Diego, unites over 40 Chicano/a/x (Mexican American) and Latino/a/x (Latin American or of Latin American descent) artists living in states along the US-Mexico border, highlighting both similarities and differences. Similarities and differences between their artwork and the Southwestern region they call home. “Most of the artists are either Mexican American first, second, third generation and beyond, but of course...

New Deep Ellum Community Center...
New Deep Ellum Community Center in Dallas shares legacy of historic rail crossroads

  Guest enjoying an exhibition at Deep Ellum Community Center | Photo by Kevin Huckabee   In the shadow of Dallas’ downtown skyscrapers, a railroad crossroads tells a fascinating story. Many of them. When the Texas and Pacific line crossed the Houston and Texas Central in 1873, Deep Ellum was created. In those years, Dallas was a hub for the cotton industry and railroads brought cotton grown across the state to Big D for processing and distribution around the nation. What oil would become to Texas in the 20th century, cotton was in the 19th. The boll weevil put an end...