Barbara Van Cleve, "Early Summer Evening: Mares and Foals," 2011

Editor's Note: Western Epilogue

Everyone has a perspective of the West. From glorified visions to vague notions, it’s a place with thematic potential “as vast as any horizon.” Perhaps more than other regions, the West is full of stories, those based in history, those based in myth and those still unfolding. 

At the beginning of her book, The Faraway Nearby, Rebecca Solnit writes: “We think we tell stories, but stories often tell us, tell us to love or to hate, to see or to be blind. Often, too often, stories saddle us, ride us, whip us onward, tell us what to do, and we do it without questioning. The task of learning to be free requires learning to hear them, to question them, to pause and hear silence, to name them, and then to become the storyteller.”

How do the stories of the West, both past and present, shape our perceptions of the region? And are these perceptions accurate? One way to answer this question is to find Solnit’s storytellers and to listen.

Within this issue, the work of artists and architects represents a variety of Western experiences. These are their stories of the West, told through color, compositions and structures. 

Take, for example, photography icon Barbara Van Cleve (“Photographing the West She Knows and Loves” ). As a woman born and raised on ranches, she cannot relate to the idea of the cowboy as a rugged romantic. Instead her story of ranch life offers a different perspective, one based on dedication and hard work.

For California artist Carmen Argote (“This Land is Our Land“), the story of the West is a story tied to identity: “I’m an artist. I’m also a Latina artist, and I also consider myself a Chicano artist. And I am a woman artist. Every time I add a label, I am adding a history, and I am aware and engaged in that conversation,” she says.

The story for architect Jack Hawkins (“Rendering”) is one where the setting determines a structure’s design. What can his buildings tell us about a place that we didn’t realize?

And among the many sculptures created by Glenna Goodacre, the Sacagawea dollar is one vision of the West forever tied to history and our national identity (“The Eyes Have It“).

The West means many things to many people. And contributor Laura Zuckerman, who wrote about the Mi Tierra exhibit at the Denver Art Museum, sums it up best: “More than a geographic location, the West is that state of being in which new ideas can achieve primacy.”

What are the new ideas that will become stories? We hope you enjoy the discovery, unfolding as art and architecture, inside.

Christine Rogel, Editor in Chief

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