“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 American 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. The American West, both real and romanticized, are the stories I create.
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. I’ve been a black and white photographer for 40+ years; the photographic images I make on location serve as a starting point for my mixed media paintings.
In my studio, working on wood, glass and steel, I weave “Old West” elements like vintage wall paper designs, typography and other symbols with those modern day Western moments resulting in a sense the past is always present.
I grew up in Northern California around the corner from Stanford University, where the iconic Eadweard Muybridge’s stop-action images of a running horse were taken and now displayed. I studied Classical Studies there, learning how iconic figures, myth and moments define a culture. When I began photographing the American West with ranchers and wranglers as my trusted guides, I realized the same cultural forces were at play.
When I’m not on the road, Prescott, AZ, 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.