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A look inside the winning art pieces of ‘Traces of the West’

By Karen Painter - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Jul 21, 2022
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“Poker Face” by Theresa Otteson, Best of Show.
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“Woodruff, Utah” by Natalie Shupe, Juror’s Award.
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“Noble” by Reggie Peterson, Honorable Mention.
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“Two Man Job” by Jerry Hancock, Honorable Mention.
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“Going After the One” by Allen Brockbank, Honorable Mention.
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“Indian Creek and a Setting Sun” by Gregg Batt, Honorable Mention.

When artist Theresa Otteson began painting a new Western-themed series, she thought it would be difficult to find material. But she didn’t have to look far.

“I found that traces of the ‘old West’ are all around us, in rodeos, ranches, ghost towns and people who love the feel of nostalgia and romance of the West,” says Otteson.

Otteson taught art classes at the Bountiful Davis Art Center for five years. Her oil paintings are featured in collections across the country, Europe and Japan. Painted on fine oiled linen, her “Poker Face” piece won Best of Show in the Ogden Pioneer Days and The Eccles Art Center’s Galleries exhibit “Traces of the West-2022.”

The exhibit features Western-themed art submitted by Utah residents including landscapes, Native American Indians, cowboys, cowgirls, indigenous wildlife and domestic animals. The exhibit opened July 1 at the Eccles Art Center.

Otteson has only been painting western art since May 2021, when she took a chance and attended a stylized photo shoot.

“It was a genre I had never tried before and I wanted to push myself to do something new,” says Otteson.

She spent four days on a ranch. She watched as Willey, the model for “Poker Face,” sat down one afternoon to play poker. The only light in the room was through the doorway and the window next to the model.

“The light lit up his left side and the right disappeared into shadow giving a beautiful glow. Everyone else was laughing and joking, but Willey never cracked a smile. The lighting and his serious expression made the whole scene look mysterious,” says Otteson.

The Traces of the West 2022 Juror’s Award went to Natalie Shupe for her landscape entitled “Woodruff, Utah.” Shupe is an Odgen native and grew up on a small farm with animals, fruit trees and “room to roam.” She started oil painting at 11 years old when her attempt to learn piano failed — she never wanted to come inside to practice. Eventually, she studied with Osreal Allred and Carl Purcell at Snow College.

Shupe says she “loves the search for new landscape subject matter by hiking, roaming, and exploring.”

Another Juror’s Award winner is Joe Deru for his turned wooden bowl called “Molasses and Cream and Stir.” It is a food-safe mixing bowl made from natural white ash.

Deru is a lifelong resident of Weber County. Last December, the State of Utah Art Collection chose Deru’s Box Elder Bowl for the state’s permanent collection. 2022 is the 16th year Deru will participate in “The Celebration of Fine Art” a 10-week winter show in Scottsdale, Arizona.

“Wood has uplifting natural beauty. Its colors, figures, and patterns lift my soul and draw me closer to the divine,” says Deru.

Allen Brockbank received an Honorable Mention award for his landscape called “Going After the One.” It features a cowboy searching red rock cliffs for his lost cow.

“I am a huge fan of the landscape of the Grand Staircase-Escalante. It can be so remote, peaceful and lonely. This piece needed the human presence to give it scale as well as a touch of color,” says Brockbank.

Brockbank lives in Centerville. While he is a digital video game artist, he also loves the joys and challenges of painting landscapes right in his backyard. “Getting outside is good for the soul. Utah is a painter’s paradise and a ‘university’ for teaching the plein air artist. Despite man’s heavy-handed influence and expansion, Mother Nature continues to express herself in the Western landscape. I love that vastness and find it easy to transport myself back to that ‘Old Western’ point of view romanticized in movies and literature,” says Brockbank.

Other artists who received honorable mentions in the Traces of the West 2022 contest are (1) Jerry Hancock for his painting “Two Man Job” picturing two cowboys branding a calf; (2) Madison Hope for her portrait of “Pretty Nose,” a portrait of a beautiful Native American Indian woman which also won the People’s Choice award; (3) Reggie Peterson’s “Noble,” a black and white portrait of a brave warrior with an ornate chest piece; and (4) Gregg Batt’s “Indian Creek and a Setting Sun.”

Visit Eccles Art Center, 2580 Jefferson Ave., to see the exhibit through Saturday, July 30. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The center is closed Sundays and holidays. The exhibit can also be accessed online at ogden4arts.org.

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