New American West exhibit rides in to BYU’s Museum of Art

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Curators, students, historians, scholars, designers and many more have spent years collaborating to present the BYU Museum of Art’s newest exhibit opening on Friday, Feb. 19: “Branding the American West: Paintings and Films, 1900-1950.”

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Maynard Dixon 1875-1946. Round Dance. 1931, oil on canvas board 5 7/16 x 19 7/8 in. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, gift of Herald R. Clark, 1937

Guests who visit Feb. 19 – Aug.13 will have the opportunity to contemplate the changing brands of the American West through paintings, sculptures and film.

Marian Wardle, curator for the exhibition on BYU’s campus, said the exhibit’s thesis focuses on shifting perceptions of the West over time — from cowboys to domesticated Pueblo Indians producing weaving and pottery.

Wardle said the exhibit will even portray how the Western landscape changed as colonists settled further west over the years.

“When the colonists thought of the West, it was the backwoods of Vermont or Virginia,” Wardle said. “But the West kept moving — from the great plains, to the Rocky Mountains, and then to Arizona with red rock desert. That became the standard image of the American West.”

Artists including Maynard Dixon, Frederic Remington and others will be featured in the 90-piece exhibition that will display the many faces and depictions of the American West.

Wardle said the process of creating this show was very different than anything the museum has ever done.

Oscar Edmund Berninghaus (1874-1952) Movie Night at Taos Theater 1939 oil on canvas, 30 x 40 in. Private collection

“We borrow works from other museums all the time,” Wardle said. “We’ve traveled shows before and we’ve lent works, but we haven’t collaborated with another museum from the ground up like this before.”

The MOA collaborated with the Stark Museum of Art in Orange, Texas and scholars across the nation to create the traveling exhibit.

The idea was born in 2006, when Wardle met with Sarah Boehme, curator at the Stark Museum of Art. Boehme said this exhibition will provide a new way of seeing some familiar works of art.

“For those who interact often with our collections, this exhibition will bring works of art that are new to them, both from the BYU Museum of Art and from works in the Stark collection that have not been exhibited recently,” Boehme said in a press release.

Savannah Branson, a sophomore majoring in food science at BYU, said she loves exploring the new art that comes through the MOA even though she is not an artist.

“I highly appreciate other people’s work and the detail they put in to it,” Branson said. “I love coming to the museum to learn. You can look at a painting, think about it and then read the description on the side. There is so much to learn.”

Wardle hopes all visitors who visit this new exhibit will enjoy and learn from the unique collection of several varying artists’ works.

“Branding the American West: Paintings and Films, 1900-1950” is on display in the MOA at BYU from Feb. 19 – Aug. 13. Admission is free to the public and tickets are not required for the exhibit.

More information about this and other exhibits at the MOA can be found online.

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