When I had money (I can barely remember it), I used to subscribe to Southwest Art, Art of the West and Art West, partly because I sent the occasional article. Then for a while I’d pick up a random copy when I was in Great Falls. The local library does not subscribe -- the claim is that people are not interested. I used to sell my back copies to the Western bookstore in Choteau, but it left. I see that Blackfeet Community College still keeps the mags on their shelves, so I’ll take up a box of back copies as a donation.
In the meantime, I am a beneficiary of American Art Review, which sent me the August issue in hopes that I would subscribe. http://amartrevsecure.com/ I still have no money, but I can reciprocate by writing a review. I used to do that now and then for the other “cowboy” art mags. But this is NOT cowboy art -- rather it is American Impressionism, often in the West and even more in California. The usual subjects are landscape and still life. Often tugged towards the abstract, at the worst descending to kitsch.
The ones I like best are full of color, loosely painted, often seascapes or long SW vistas, but sometimes geometric compositions of houses or cliffs. Russell Chatham, who spends much of his time in Montana, comes directly out of this tradition. He occasionally operates a publishing house and if he puts one of his paintings on a book cover, it will sell regardless of the contents! http://www.russellchatham.com/ My great-aunt Mabel Heitschmidt lived in Pasadena and painted flower still-lifes of high quality, but she had no reputation, probably in deference to her husband, Earl, who was a noted architect.
The most famous painters of this style are probably the Taos 7. Here is the lone Indian painting in this issue, a model with a wry attitude toward this Sioux headdress. I wonder how he felt about the floral wallpaper. The artist is E. Martin Hennings.
When I was regularly reviewing these zines, I would look for certain recurring subjects. One was doorways, one was birds, and one was cafes. This time I only found cafes. Here’s one by a contemporary artist named Tankersley.
Instead of the people lingering at tables, she picked up on the barrista or sous chef, and captured an almost meditative feel. This is the desirable context of so many young people. Call them slackers if you like, but I too enjoy these big hollow spaces, hung with banners, lined with pictures, full of hiss and chatter.
Art communities tend to be bicoastal so there are usually a lot of boats and ships. I love sailboats with strange sails. This one is by Edgar Payne and is called “Marco Polo Adriatic (Thus Did We Sail for the Doge)”, painted between 1922 and 1924.
The concept of American Art Review is to publish articles based on curated shows so the article is often written by the curator involved, giving some history and context of the work as well as justification for what is shown. This is pretty helpful even though the works are figurative, realistic, not needing a lot of interpretation the way abstract art and “concept” art often must be explained. I understand that abstraction is one way to push deeper into the work. It’s often emotionally satisfying in a way that a simple portrayal might not be, because the viewer might attribute his or her reaction to the subject matter rather than the skill of the actual painting.
There IS an article about a sculptor, Cyrus Edwin Dallin, marking the 150th anniversary of his birth. http://www.dallin.org His life revolved around Boston and his community was that of the American monumental sculptors working in the French Beaux Arts tradition such as Daniel Chester French, St. Gaudens, Phimister Proctor, Malvina Hoffman and I would include Bob Scriver. Their work is iconic, recognized and intended to be celebrations of America. They tend to be part of the Noble Savage mythology which is sort of out-of-fashion. Noble savages never go all the way out of fashion -- they just change savages. We’ll see what Johnny Depp can do with savage Indians instead of savage Pirates ! Of course, American anything is pretty out-of-fashion at the moment. This Dallin bronze might work: it’s title is “Protest.”
Dallin had a career experience much like that Bob Scriver had with his portrait of Charlie Russell. Dallin's portrait of Paul Revere, his first entry in a competition, was praised, then rejected, then resubmitted, accepted but postponed and on and on -- it was denounced, redeemed, completed, unpaid -- until he finally donated it to Springville, Utah. Then Boston woke up and you can see the bronze version near the Old North Church.
If I had money today, I would not subscribe to this magazine first, but rather go to The National Sculpture Society’s http://www.nationalsculpture.org/nssN/index.cfm magazine “National Sculpture Review” which is not usually found on newsstands. It is also representational of “the natural world” but with a broad and inclusive attitude that reaches far into the past. Their curation is by artists and for artists, so not focused on gallery sales. This means, of course, that the magazine is not so fat and splendid as the mags supported by a lot of advertising.
This issue of American Art Review does include this bronze entitled “Dreamer” by Richard Reccia.
Recchia (1885-1983) is another of those Bostonian Beaux Arts people, not very well known. This bronze is 16”X36” and comes from an era when nude children could be portrayed innocently as Pan or as sprites in fountains. It’s ironic (or something) that an elegant romantic sculpture like this one can be perfectly acceptable in a strait-laced formal society like “Edwardian” Massachusetts and yet be denounced today as pornographic in a culture that is beyond erotic into filmed shock and depravity. There seems to be an inverse relationship. All I know is that I think this is lovely.
Art tells us about ourselves. Not just what we are willing to buy because of its investment value or the status of having it in our homes, but also what our hearts yearn for, what we can see in the world around us. This is the great value of looking at a lot of any kind of art -- it trains our eyes to see deeply. Thus, this is the reason for subscribing to art magazines. After all, it’s not as expensive as buying the actual art.