Altamira Fine Art Scottsdale is pleased to welcome Duke Beardsley for his annual solo exhibition in Arizona. The show will open February 11th with an Artist Reception on Thursday, February 14th, from 7-9pm.
Duke Beardsley’s cowboys are on the move, galloping past static mythologies toward futures both vivid and unresolved. Traditionally in Western art, place provides cues to character. This is not so in the mindset of Beardsley, who brings to bear his lived experience as a fifth-generation Coloradoan. Within his rubric of color and repetition, his heroes ride into a rhetorical realm, unfettered by landscape, isolated in modern life. The contextual weight the cowboy carries as an icon is revived by the bold and modern style of Beardsley. As the Old West transitions to a new era, bringing population growth and changing ideas, the artist grapples with balancing this change symbolically via his work.
Beardsley challenges viewers to find their own answers through the act of looking—to wonder what they are seeing or not seeing—in his works and in the world. Exploring iterations, he paints each silhouette by hand, allowing their personalities to come through in subtle variations: a torso slightly torqued; a hat a bit askance; heels in mid-kick; hooves aloft in flight. Happenstance lent transparency to his riders, underscoring their precarity. Chance led Beardsley to a historical context outside Western tropes. The 19th century study photographer, Eadweard Muybridge, has served as an inspiration to Beardsley for his famous work, “The Horse in Motion.” Unconsciously, he had been exploring his riders within the grid form of photographic negatives. “I suddenly realized there was something there that I wasn’t intending,” he says, “but that’s one of the benefits of keeping your eyes and your heart open.”
Chance is a major characteristic in Beardsley’s works, but there is a great deal of intention as well. While contemplating the era and subject of his paintings, the artist asks, “What does the icon mean out here on its own? Does it still carry the traditional weight and provenance? Rugged individualism, heroic, tough? And what happens when you impose a decidedly and unapologetically romanticized icon in front of an equally stylized and romanticized invented background of a hundred floating cowboys?” By immortalizing a legacy, Beardsley captures the subtleties of a way of life that is rapidly changing and possibly fading.
Growing up in Colorado, Duke Beardsley was always trying to find his way as an artist amid the leaden legacy of cowboy art. “Western art can take all kinds of abuse and it won’t break. Artists are out there right now figuring out a way to push and stretch the genre. I think about myself, I still have the scar marks from Remington and Russell, but their West is not my West.” Shaped and molded by this way of life, the artist has a respect and fondness of traditional Western art, although the traditional way is not authentic to him. Beardsley works big, as big as the land and lore he ruminates on through absence and inference. Courageously, he confronts wall-sized canvases. “I’ve never been what you might call dainty, so I love moving and getting up on chairs or ladders to paint,” he says. “I’m not a delicate painter. I find freedom and power in that, and the energy is pretty incredible.” Life on the ranch reflects his creative process of painting, respecting the way of life but paving your own path through it. Beardsley’s beliefs are realized through his work, to be traditional yet contemporary.
Duke Beardsley was born in 1969 in Denver, Colorado. He studied at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. As a fifth generation Coloradan, Duke Beardsley’s Western roots run deep and his art reflects those roots. Splitting his time between Denver and his family’s cattle ranch in eastern Colorado, he has been drawing and painting images of the American West most of his life. His work blends modern artistic elements with the traditional icons of the West. The result has made him a consistently popular favorite among collectors of contemporary western art.
“Putting the figures on a big color field is an invitation to put yourself in the painting. It plays up the cowboy mystique. We're all cowboys at some point in our lives." – Duke Beardsley
Beardsley has a masterly command of drawing technique. His working cowboy images are rendered in a clever, minimalist approach and presented in palettes that lend a Pop Art sensibility. His unique art, like his western lifestyle, is a joyful melding of tradition and contemporary styling.
Beardsley’s work has been featured in notable exhibitions across the country such as the Coors Western Art Exhibit and Sale, the Buffalo Bill Art Show & Sale; The Russell: The Sale to Benefit the C.M. Russell Museum; and the Colorado Governor’s Invitational Art Show & Sale. His work was also included in Out West: The Great American Landscape, the 2007 groundbreaking contemporary western art exhibition that toured China.
Beardsley won the 2008 Colorado Governor’s Award for his piece entitled “Colorado Horsepower.” His work can be found in noteworthy collections around the world, including: The Forbes Collection; Denver Art Museum; Booth Museum of Western Art, and the State of Colorado. In 2011, he was named Artist of the Year by the Foothills Art Center in Golden, Colorado. In 2013, his work was commissioned for the Calgary Stampede poster.
Western Art Collector, “A’Horseback”, January 2016
The Denver Post, “A Different Kind of Ranch, A Different Kind of Cowboy Artist”, June 2013
Western Art Collector, “Today’s West”, August 2011
Southwest Art, “Success Stories: Duke Beardsley”, December 2009
Western Art Collector, “West of Now”, October 2008
Western Art Collector, “The Works of Duke Beardsley”, March 2008
Southwest Art, “Roots in the Rockies”, September 2004