Offered this week, “The Shimmering Land” by western artist Kenneth Riley (1919-2015).


What color is white?

“The Shimmering Land” is a white painting.  Except it’s not white.   Orange, blue, green, yellow, and purple are used to paint a white figure riding a white horse in a white landscape.  At the gallery, I hung The Shimmering Land next to another western painting, “Backstage” by Duke Beardsley (born 1969).  After I hung these two paintings, I noticed they use exactly the same colors with dramatically different results.   The Shimmering Land indeed shimmers with these jewel-like colors while Beardsley’s painting is bright, bold and dark with the same colors.  A remarkable comparison!

The title “The Shimmering Land” must refer to these little jewels of color.  But the painting has other contradictions.  Despite the quiet, hushed feel of the painting, it is full of movement.  The horse is moving out in mid-stride.  Intent on his purpose, the rider leans back as the horse descends the sloped terrain, the rider’s hair blowing in the wind.  I feel – more than see – the rocky canyons in the background.  All the artist has given us for background is an emphatic swirl laid in front of a white-non-white bar sandwiched between purple.  Yet I know this background is a sandy, desert-like canyon.  The suggestive background contrasts with the detail of the horse and rider.  I can see the horse’s ribs and musculature. The rider’s face is as distinctive as a portrait.  I would know him if I saw him on the street.  Nothing is left to my imagination.  It’s all there.  It’s as if the rider is going to come out of the canvas and continue riding past me.  Here is an artist who can DRAW.

I’m in awe of this painting.   As I write this, I’m sitting in front of it and just watching it.  It is the best painting in the gallery.   Even if I didn’t know the artist was Ken Riley, I still would think it’s the best painting in the gallery.  One of America’s great artists, Riley combined talent and a lifetime of hard work during a long, prolific art career.  His paintings are in museums and major collections all over the world.  Books have been written about him and there are retrospective shows of his work.

I encourage anyone who is a lover of western art, or great American art, to come see “The Shimmering Land.”  It is in our gallery at 1706 N. Mays in Round Rock, Texas.  The painting is an original oil on canvas, 20” x 24”, framed in a silver frame, 30” x 34”.

For pricing, please call 512-551-9774 or email  Comments are welcome!

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