There is an old western proverb that says, "If you're riding ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it's still there." It may be the herd that has wandered off, or it may be the Old West itself that has morphed into something different before your very own eyes. The latter is the subject of the newest exhibition at The G Gallery called "Re-Western." The collection features the works of two artists, Felice House and Dana Younger, and their exploration of the American Western Frontier from a contemporary perspective.
"Re-Western" examines many of the quintessential western emblems and turns them on their heads. Younger, a sculptor and installation artist, has taken the western theme and has pushed it into a post-modern era. One section of the gallery is dedicated to Younger's constructed bull skulls. The classic icon of the Native Americans, which is often known as a representation of bravery and strength, has been turned into a modern symbol of razzle-dazzle painted in bright neon colors.
Younger has also created a series of embossed and carved pieces, "The End" series, made from high density polyethylene and aluminum, depicting Old West relics, such as bison, steam engines and horse drawn covered wagons. Each piece has written on it the words, "The End," to remind us that these representations of the Old West will soon be forever gone, if they aren't already. The series is powerful on multiple levels. At its most evident, we understand that "the end" is inevitable, but through the use of various contemporary typeface to highlight this ending, Younger has also brought us to the reasons why this once romanticized era is over. Technology, modern marvels and expansion have destroyed this world.
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Painter Felice House has a different take, although her concept follows a similar thought-process. House has created a series of paintings of iconic scenes from Western films and replaced the main cowboy with female figures. Well-known images from films such as The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Giant, and 3:10 to Yuma, among others, now prominently display women.
The result is as thought provoking as it is eye-catching. House is an exceptional artist and her paintings capture the essence of the scenes without being carbon copies. The difference is in the color pallet she uses, dark colors with hints of attention grabbing rouges. But unlike the rugged men of the Western genre, these women are anything but weather-beaten, rather they are stunning women with long flowing hair. The solid masculinity of the typical cowboy is now a portraiture of femininity.
America's fascination with the Old West is built on the archetypal images we have come to know from books and film. "Re-Western" gives a fascinating take on these images. Thinking about the end of the great American frontier as depicted by the two artists may make you nostalgic for a time that you never knew. We understand what happened to the old west and why, but it doesn't make it any less romantic. It's as if we all turned around one day and our herd was all but gone.
"Re-Western" at The G Gallery through December 29. Free. Wednesday through Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m. For more information visit ggalleryhouston.com.