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Western art takes front-and-center at this National Western Stock Show tradition

The Coors Western Art Exhibit has been part of the National Western Stock Show since 1993. This year, the exhibit is expanding what it means to be Western art.
Credit: Bryan Wendland

DENVER — What is Western art? 

The portrait of a cowboy? Stunning photography of wild horses? A sculpture of a cowboy on a horse?

For Elsa Sroka, Western art looks like a cow sitting on a couch. 

"I hope this cow's face draws you in, that's what I go for," she said.

A few moments of looking at the portrait, and it does become clear that the cow is posed on a couch with roses falling around it. 

"A cow is a western symbol," Sroka said. "I'm showing with amazing artists, so I'm always challenged and pushed to the best that I can be."

This is Sroka's fifth year showing in the Coors Western Art Exhibit. Fellow artist Stephanie Hartshorn's been showing her work here for five years, too. She says this year especially the exhibit is expanding what 'Western art' means.

"It's not all cowboys and horses roaming with the cowboys," she said. "It's how a lot of artists are interpreting the West now."

Walk through the free (suggested donation) exhibit and you'll find Hartshorn's painting of a Jamestown, Colorado barn hanging next to a Denver cityscape. There's a Loon's skull on display beneath a colorful buffalo portrait. The exhibit's featured image is a cowgirl on horseback, while the first stock show's artist in residence has hung nest-like sculptures from the ceiling.

Credit: Bryan Wendland
'The Purple Rider' by Terry Gardner

"It's extraordinary art in so many different styles," Pat Russell, a visitor from Dumont, said.

Everyone has a different answer when asked what Western art is.

Russell said it's art that has 'some natural dimension to it.'

"Maybe just more I think a homey feel," Stock Show first-timer Lisa Winslow said.

There isn't really a right answer to the question. Whether it's a barn in Jamestown or a cow on a couch, the definition of Western art is expanding at the Coors Western Art Exhibit.

Credit: Bryan Wendland
Plains Bison, by Lee Andre

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