Artist William Matthews Leads Tour of Exhibition

Artist William Matthews Leads Tour of Exhibition

William Matthews: Trespassing, on view at the Denver Art Museum, presents portraits of the West through the eyes of an "interloper," someone who's not a cowboy himself, but became intrigued by them.

Matthews was in the gallery on January 6 prior to the Petrie Institute of Western American Art's symposium (as of January 6 tickets are still available) to discuss the exhibition with media and Thomas Smith, Director of the DAM's Petrie Institute of Western American Art and curator of this exhibition.

Matthews said that roughly half the paintings include language in them, which came from his prior experience designing album covers. Before he was a painter, he was a graphic designer. Sometimes the words represented what was in the painting and sometimes not. In the latter case, the words "became poetry," he said.

William Matthews discusses his exhibition in front of Hopalong Henry, an example of one of his works that includes words in the painting. Image credit: William Matthews (American, b. 1949), Hopalong Henry, 2013. Watercolor on paper. Collection of the artist.

Matthews shared that many of the cowboys in the paintings are working cowboys that he became friends with over the years of painting them. In Hard Candy, he captured one of his cowboy friends who was trying to quit smoking by replacing cigarettes with lollipops.

The artist and curator in front of Hard Candy. Image credit: William Matthews (American, b. 1949), Hard Candy, 1995. Watercolor on paper. Lent by Graeme and Norah Bretall, Ketchum, Idaho.

Smith said that Hard Candy is one of his favorite paintings in the exhibition. "One of the reasons I'm so charmed by it is that in many ways it challenges our myths about who cowboys are. The cowboy in the painting is sort of the anti-Marlboro man, trying to quit smoking," Smith said. "But also I think it's a great example of the key to what will make William Matthews' work stand the test of time and that is he is painting the West how it is today."

You can see larger images of Hopalong Henry and Hard Candy on our website. Learn more about William Matthews at this screening of a documentary about the artist on January 23. And join curator Thomas Smith for a tour of the exhibition February 6.

Carleen Brice is content manager in the marketing department at the Denver Art Museum. Carleen has been at the DAM since 2013. Every day at the museum she is reminded of this quote by Maya Angelou: "You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have."