Western nouveau will be the phrase on everyone’s lips as they pass through Trailside Galleries during the Fall Arts Festival.
The term, a portmanteau of “Western art” and “art nouveau,” was coined by Thomas Blackshear, an American artist who is making what he calls his “fine art debut” during the festival at Jackson’s oldest gallery.
“It was an idea to combine the Western themes with art nouveau,” Blackshear said of his particular style. “Just trying to think about things and come at it with a different perspective.”
Blackshear, a Colorado artist who has been in the industry for 38 years, paints a variety of subjects, many of which combine traditional Western themes with a modern embrace of nature and natural forms and structures. The work he’ll show during his debut highlights Native Americans and cowboys.
“I just kind of thought if I was going to do a theme with art nouveau it would lend itself better with Indians and the feathers and buckskin and all the beads,” he said. “I’m trying to think outside the box and take a different glimpse into the life of the cowboy and Native American.”
In one painting a Native American chief stands in profile, with a proud face and a butterfly wing coming out of his head in the shape of a feather headdress. Blackshear infuses gold leaf into some works, borrowing from the common decorative nature of art nouveau.
“They’re very strong portraits and proud figures, and it’s very simple in design,” Trailside owner Maryvonne Leshe said. “But it’s very emotional and powerful, with dramatic lighting and mood.”
Blackshear’s work will be placed alongside paintings by Mark Maggiori, Bonnie Marris and Shawn Gould. Leshe said Maggiori, a Frenchman who is also making his Trailside debut, is “hot” in the art world.
“He just became transfixed with the Western landscape and the majesty of it all,” Leshe said. “He has a unique view of the American cowboy.”
In Maggiori’s work there’s always a cowboy, a horse and a view that’s bigger than both of them. It’s simultaneously majestic and ominous. The face of the figure is often obscured, drawing the viewer’s eye toward the conquest and not necessarily the conquerer.
Marris, a wildlife painter from Michigan, will have a show titled “Up Close and Personal.” Gould, known for photorealistic wildlife paintings, is showcasing “Color and Light.” Both have long been represented by Trailside, with several shows under their belts.
The gallery will be open during the Palates and Palettes Gallery Walk on Friday, Sept. 6. There will be a reception for all four artists at 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, coinciding with the end of the Jackson Hole Art Auction, a major draw of the festival.
Blackshear and Maggiori will show only a few paintings each, so their works will be sold in a drawing. Any unsold works will be displayed through Sept. 21.
Leshe said both artists represent the future of Western art, one that is less traditional and more interested in perspective and greater meaning than just traditional figures and landscapes.
“They’re creating work for a new generation of art collectors,” she said. “They want something a little more contemporary. They aren’t collecting their dad’s work that was more traditional.”
The Fall Arts Festival, she said, is a wonderful time not only to pay homage to the Western art that drives the area, but continue the conversation about what that art looks like down the trail.
“Both of these artists have such a creative mind and unique vision in how they portray their subject matter,” she said. “They have a unique view of a common subject matter. I think that’s what’s going to be exciting for the collectors to come see.” ￼