“People often ask if the images I paint are from another century, from a bygone era. This is the West today, I say—a place where neighbor helps neighbor, where the day doesn’t end when the sun goes down.”
– Maura Allen, “Today’s West” | SouthwestArt Magazine
Story and cinema, song and symbol, landscape and legends shape both our real and imagined view of the West. Native Americans, Lewis and Clark, Remington, Russell and dime store magazines were the first Western storytellers to shape our views. Song, photography and film soon added to the mix — and mythology. Of course, real issues like water, land and livestock, rodeo and ranching and more are central to life in the West today. How the real and imagined conflate (and sometimes collide) in our hearts and minds defines my work.
I start each piece on location, looking directly into the sun. The wide open West — its ranches, rodeos, and vintage Main Street — are my stage. With details obscured, I look for strong, iconic silhouettes. In my studio, working on wood panel, glass and steel, I add in “Old West” elements like vintage wall paper designs, typography and other symbols with those modern day Western moments resulting in a confluence of old and new, historic and modern. A blue sky romantic, for me, this is the West.
I grew up in Northern California–around the corner from Stanford University, where the iconic Eeadweard Muybridge’s stop-action images of a running horse were taken and now displayed. I studied Classical Studies there, learning about the Romans and how myth, politics, religion, social issues and literature layer together in a time and place. I’ve come to realize, much the same happens right here in the West. When I’m not on the road, Prescott and the Williamson Valley are home. Late in the day, I like to watch the Santa Fe Railroad snake through the valley, just as it has for well over a century.