Solo Exhibition | Jackson Hole, WY
With the sun cresting above the Colorado horizon, Duke Beardsley witnessed a moment between two friends that made him slow his pace. Often attuned to movement, this scene made him pause and notice the narrative potential of two cowboys talking over a saddled horse. He circled them with his camera, shooting from every angle in the warm light of sunrise. The quiet intimacy of friends preparing for a ride—their words open to interpretation by painter and viewer alike.
Back in his studio, he waited for the right time to return to the episode. Working big, he tackles 10-foot canvases with aplomb, painting rows of riding cowboys freehand, each figure distinct. Recently, he’s been adding ribbons of color around the riders, a gesture of stylized control over the galloping chaos. The sunrise scene rose from this shift, signaling a sharper turn toward nuanced iconography. He didn’t know how to tackle it until he tipped a 9-by-6-foot canvas on its side. True to his process, the inspiration then flowed unbridled as he set down a charcoal sketch in 30 minutes (music blaring). Stepping back, he assessed, recording his reactions as notes on the canvas. He sent a photo of the annotated sketch to the friends featured: “This is all wrong” scrawled beneath the mare’s belly. The reply: Please use that as the title. This is Beardsley’s modus operandi as an artist: he lets his paintings feel all wrong until they feel all resolved; he relinquishes control, teetering on the edge until impulse becomes purpose. Usually, spontaneity precedes intention. The conversation painting marks a new focus on reflective compositions.
True to his calling as a storyteller, he sets his paintings in the narrative current of Western art—the compelling story lines of C.M. Russell and Frederic Remington. Distinguishing himself, he provides fewer directional cues than his aesthetic forefathers. For instance, the sunrise cowboys encourage subjective readings: their conversation could be seen as serious, or they could be trading recipes. The reader sets the plot. “I want to give you even less and then invite you to tell your own story,” he says. “I want to re-embrace narrative in Western art, and it’s fun now to see that happening in a quiet and subtle way.”
For his summer exhibition at Altamira, Beardsley brings the full spectrum of his oeuvre; reflective juxtaposing rowdy, all complicating Western iconography.
For more information about Beardsley and his worrk, please contact Altamira Fine Art by email—[email protected]—or phone—(307) 739-4700.
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