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1:31 AM Sun, Nov. 18th

Beauty and Beast in the West<BR><i>Phippen show captures its soul in sculpture, on canvas</i>

Deborah Reeder of the Phippen Museum hangs artwork by Prescott artist Bill Anton with bronzes by, from right, Ray Swanson, Robert Scriver, Sid Burns, Bill Owen and George Phippen for the "Beauty and Beast" art exhibit now open.

Courier/Tom Hood

The Phippen Museum opens its newest exhibit today, "Beauty and Beast in the West," a display of its own collections.

The exhibit is divided into such categories as Cowboys and Ranching, Landscape Wilderness, Native Americans, Influence of Western Films, Cattle, Horses, Saddles, Rodeo, and Loneliness and Wind.

"Most of the Phippen collection dates to relatively recent times," said Deborah Reeder, the museum's executive director, "with artwork of a generally naturalistic style with western-themed iconography.

"True to its style, naturalistic painting denies the flat nature of the canvas and works to create an imaginary window onto another world," she said.

"Beauty and Beast" contains a varied view of the vast versatility that is the West.

Among the museum's collection are fine-featured pastoral landscapes such as "Mt. Tamalpais and Landscape with Cattle," by William Keith, and "Desert Landscape" by William Wendt. Conversely, other landscapes, such as Gerald Delano's "Canyon Travelers" and Bill Freeman's "Big Country," portray the West's raw, dramatic geologic beauty.

"It is not possible to imagine the West without the romance and utility of the horse," Reeder said.

Thus, the Beauty and Beast exhibit features art with horses in herds, fighting stallions, individual horse portraits and even small bronze horse sculptures.

Other characteristics of the West, such as its loneliness, relentless wind, and darkening storms are also on exhibit.

The West was and is home to both Native and Anglo Americans, and Beauty and Beast also represents their relationships, whether peaceful, ceremonial or cultural.

Than again, "certain narrative paintings in the exhibit seem to be single frames from a western action film frozen onto canvas," Reeder said, noting the lively paintings by Shannon Sternweis, Herbert Dunton and Marjorie Reed, or scenes of branding, roping and rodeo.

"This is a small slice from the Phippen Museum's permanent collection of the beauty and beasts of the incredibly large West," Reeder noted.

"The dialogue with the nature of the West still resonates. It is a way of life that has produced much beauty: raw beauty and raw beasts … seen in the paintings done of the western past (and) still vastly popular," she said.

A portion of the "Beauty and the Beast" exhibit is to travel for two years – in part, thanks to the Arizona Commission on the Arts, which helped organize the exhibit.

In addition to a view of the exhibit, the museum will also provide western music, films and videos and a children's activity area.

Regular Phippen Museum hours are daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 4. To confirm hours, call 778-1385. The museum is at 4701 Highway 89 North. Tours are available for groups.