Growing up in Utah, artists Bruce Cheever and Jeremy Winborg developed early fascinations with the Native American culture they saw around them.
Cheever recalls exploring for petroglyphs, pottery and arrowheads on family vacations around the American West. Winborg still has one of his first paintings of a Native American chief, which he did when 5 years old, somewhere in his studio.
Living in close proximity to Native American culture would come to define large parts of their artistic careers decades later. Starting Thursday, Cheever and Winborg will be featured in “Native Stories: Preserving Tradition,” a joint show at Trailside Galleries that pays homage to their lifelong admiration for indigenous culture.
Trailside’s managing partner, Maryvonne Leshe, brought the artists, who have never met, together for the show. Though they paint the same subject matter, Cheever and Winborg employ wildly different approaches: Cheever is more realistic, traditional, and Winborg incorporates elements of abstraction.
“Having the same subject matter depicted in such a different way will make for an interesting show,” Winborg said. “It’s pretty genius.”
“Native Stories” is Cheever’s first show entirely dedicated to Native American art. Regardless of subject matter, certain elements run consistently through his diverse body of work, namely his attention to detail and his masterful use of light.
“Bruce is known for having a lot of luminosity in his work,” said gallery director Joan Griffith. “He has beautiful light and is a very detailed painter.”
Whether he’s painting landscapes, still lifes or portraits — all of which will be on display at Trailside on Thursday — Cheever is drawn to beauty.
“I’m looking for beautiful things in the world,” he said. “I want my work to be a tribute to whatever I’m painting.”
Winborg’s work bridges the gap between traditional and contemporary styles of Native American art. The figures in his paintings, primarily Native American women, are painted in a realistic manner similar to Cheever’s style. But as Winborg moves out from the face his figures become more stylized, and the backgrounds are entirely abstract.
“It’s such a juxtaposition to see the tightness of realism in the face with the abstract background,” Winborg said.
He stumbled upon that style one day after slogging through many entirely realistic paintings early in his career. Adding the abstract backgrounds was way more fun for him, and they’ve picked up a following among a diverse group of collectors.
“Winborg is much more of the cutting, New West look,” Griffith said. “He’s been extremely well received by both traditional collectors as well as those who like a little more of a contemporary look.”
While portraying Native American people, culture and history, Cheever and Winborg are both sensitive to making sure they are painting in a historically accurate manner. That means doing lots of research and bringing in historians as well as tribe members to consult with and model for paintings.
“I am not Native American, but I do appreciate their history and even their current history,” Cheever said. “I’ve always had a deep respect for these people, and I want my paintings to be a tribute to these people and the ways they lived their lives.” ￼