Arizona’s roots are easy to forget as the Valley continues to grow.
Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West and its exhibitions act as reminders of Arizona’s past. The tourist attraction opened in 2015 and has since educated and inspired guests by immersing them in Western culture.
Dr. Tricia Loscher helped open SMoW as its assistant director since 2014. She strives to share her vision for the museum, while continuing to open more exhibitions.
“I really would love to see it expand and grow in different ways,” Loscher says. “We’ve curated a lot of exhibitions through traditional Western art and artist.”
The purpose of these exhibitions is to continue to expand on the definition of the West and guests’ experiences.
“My vision is to bring these wonderful exhibitions that challenge the notion of the American West, because there many definitions of the West,” Loscher says. “What is the West to you is going to be different than how I perceive and my experiences of the West.”
Paul Calle’s Life of Exploration: From the Mountains to the Moon
Paul Calle (1928-2010) was best known for drawing and painting realistic pieces of the historic American West, featuring Native Americans and mountain men. His work was inspired by his time with Native Americans when he observed their culture. Calle also sought to represent modern science’s groundbreaking achievements.
Calle spent many decades as an official NASA artist and designed the 1969 “First Man on the Moon” artwork and stamp. His goal was to depict space exploration as it progressed.
An oil on masonite painting, Calle’s “The Great Moment” (1969) is a realistic image of an astronaut descending onto the surface of the moon. The pitch-black background and the detailed uneven moon surface make this painting look more like a photograph.
Among his cache is also “Something for the Pot II,” an oil on canvas of a hunter armed with a rifle and the animals he has collected. The contrast between his red coat and the snow on the trees in the background make this visually appealing.
Further exploring Calle’s style, “JFK” is simple and stunning. Graphite on paper, “JFK” depicts the late president sitting on a chair near a window. Calle—who also painted portraits of Robert Frost and Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan—is a black and white image to allow viewers’ imagination to fill in the gaps.
Calle’s passion for the juxtaposition of the historic West and space exploration can best be described by a quote from him:
“I have always likened the image of mountain man John Colter, his moccasin-clad foot first stepping on the newly fallen snow of the Yellowstone valley, to the moon boot of Neil Armstrong, stepping in the dust of the moon’s surface at the sea of tranquility … two worlds apart, yet each at the edge of a new frontier.”
The exhibit is open through October 11, 2020.
Will James: Cowboy Artist and Author
Open through August 18, the Will James exhibit shows his paintings, drawings, etchings, books and ephemera.
James was born in Montreal in 1892. He left home at 15 to live in the West, where he worked as a cowboy. In addition, James spent time in Hollywood and he was known as “the cowboy who drew pictures.”
“It’s often said that because he was an actual working cowboy, he really knew how to depict it and you can see it in his animals (paintings),” Loscher says.
James was known as one of the greatest artists, thanks to his Western style. His book “Smoky the Cowhorse” won the 1927 Newbery Medal for children’s literature and was adapted for film three times. He published 26 books, eight of which will be available for sale in the SMoW’s Sue and Robert Karatz Museum Store.
James’ “Young Cowboy” (1935) illustrates a young boy taming a wild horse using pen, ink and water color.
His oil canvas “Smoky and Clint” (1929) depicts a cowboy and his companion horse on the Old West’s rugged terrain. Viewers will notice the contrast between the dark terrain and the sunny landscape in the background.
The Abe Hays Family Will James Collection includes more than 80 original artworks and his 26 books.
“He really captured various angles and postures that would be really hard to do unless you had an understanding of the animals,” Loscher says. “These depictions tell stories between the animals and the people, so you can really see the working relationships between the two.”
Goldwater photography exhibition
Former U.S. Sen. Barry M. Goldwater was passionate about Arizona. As a gifted photographer, he contributed to Arizona Highways magazine hundreds of times. With the help of the Barry and Peggy Goldwater Foundation, who has preserved and digitized Goldwater’s photographs, and Arizona Highways magazine, the SMoW is displaying this exhibit.
This is SMoW’s first all-photography exhibition and will run through March 2020. It is the largest collection of Goldwater’s work and unreleased photography, intimate family photos, and personal items belonging to the senator.
His black and white “Totem Pole” (1967) shows the famous ridgeline familiar to many rock climbers. The image shows the Rocky Mountains as if they are erupting to form impressively tall columns.
Goldwater’s photographs “The Navajo” and “Native American Child,” prove his appreciation for Arizona’s roots. The images have strong shadows and well-lit faces. The Navajo subject’s wrinkles show a rugged individual, while the child’s dusty face in the “Native American Child” shows the character of the youth.
Goldwater took more than 15,000 photographs, and this exhibition showcases 34. Guests can expect imagery across Arizona’s landscapes, people and culture as Goldwater once experienced them.
Depicting Arizona’s culture
The SMoW continues to highlight the Western region’s traditional culture, while also looking toward the future. With more exhibitions to come, it will continue to expand the meaning and stories of the West.
“Always keep questioning and critiquing and being more inclusive of cultures and cultures who have come here from various parts of the world to live and work and how the West has influenced them,” Loscher says.
Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West
3830 N. Marshall Way, Scottsdale, 480.686.9539, scottsdalemuseumwest.org.