What It Is I Don't Own | Oil on canvas | 42 x 84 inches. Artwork: Duke Beardsley

JACKSON, Wyo. — Duke Beardsley and Ben Steele both find themselves at crossroads in their respective practices: after years of honing technique and aesthetic, they are embracing the freedom to discover unexpected aspects of their paintings.

The fruit of their labors will be on view at Altamira Fine Art from July 13 to 24, with a joint opening reception held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on July 15, during the July Art Walk.

Red, White and Boot | Oil on canvas | 24 x 20 inches. Artwork: Ben Steele

When characterizing their new canvases, each artist offered parallel insights. “Unraveling. Uncoiling”—the words that came to Beardsley’s mind—subconsciously offered him the metaphor of a lariat, the essential tool of the cowboys he often paints.Naturally a rope coils, abiding by its wound-up form. But with movement a lariat kinks, and the cowboy must continually tend to it—to ensure it sits neatly in his hand, ready to lasso at a moment’s notice. Such is the work of the artist. After years of study and practice, the painter comes to a point where he must let his skills fly free. For Beardsley, a string of pandemic epiphanies has led to the joyful unraveling of his cowboy paintings; now layered texture, unresolved context and historical reckoning ride wildly in his large-scale works.

Similarly, Steele finds himself embracing discovery as he continually evolves his relationship to the Western iconography he reconceptualizes in his paintings. By letting loose, he is able to find the unconstrained within the familiar—the fun and the profundity inherent in recasting Western icons as contemporary objects. Having chosen to plant his family and studio in a rural artist community in Utah, he has observed the influx of new neighbors prompted by the pandemic. His interest in the enduring allure of the West feels particularly relevant to this moment: What tropes continue to compel people to uproot their city selves and move closer to nature?

R&R | Oil on canvas | 60 x 72 inches. Artwork: Ben Steele

For both Steele and Beardsley, such questions course through their new paintings. Rather than give form to answers, the two artists model the curiosity and consciousness necessary to forge into a more open and free future.

Their concurrent shows run from July 13 through July 24 at Altamira Fine Art. Join us on July 15 for their opening receptions from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. For more information about their paintings and respective practices, please contact Altamira Fine Art by email—connect@altamiraart.com—or phone—(307) 739-4700.