New Acquisition: Ojo Caliente by William Shepherd

April 29 / 2014

The Tucson Museum of Art announces a new acquisition, Ojo Caliente by William Shepherd, 2006, oil on wood panel, 46 x 63, a gift of the artist.

William Shepherd, Ojo Caliente, is the latest addition to the Tucson Museum of Art collection.  In his work, Shepherd concentrates on representing everyday items from a new, insightful perspective in his still life paintings. Using his personal collection of Native American material, tourist memorabilia, and other items, Shepherd creates juxtapositions between cultural artistic forms and Western kitsch. These works of art perpetuate a sense of vibrancy and harmony, making significant statements about contemporary views of the West.

Shepherd brings to the forefront trinkets and collectibles that are casually ignored by replicating them with stunning clarity. He develops striking contrasts of colors, textures, and shapes. Artistically, these pieces transform into instruments that convey elements of light and dark, depth and perception.

“I am so pleased that my painting Ojo Cliente will be included in the permanent collection of the Tucson Museum of Art, “said Shepherd.  “The Museum is an aesthetic oasis with a significant collection with impressive pieces dating from early Hispanic and Native American art up to contemporary works.  The thoughtfully designed interior of the museum is as open and welcoming as its staff. “

Shepherd’s work creates, in the artist’s term, visuality: an undefined sense of transcendence appealing to the eye and spirit. He emphasizes the development of relationships with each object to one another and the space they occupy. There is an evident sense of wit, commentary, and nostalgia in Shepherd’s still life paintings. Mass-produced Chinese, Japanese, or Mexican-made cowboy and Native American figurines may entertain, but are examples of the oversaturation of commercialism and tourism of the West that has occurred throughout the past century. Still, the Western kitsch items are looked upon with endearment by the artist as they provide an intimate connection, reminding Shepherd of his childhood of growing up in the West and personal recollections of being a tourist himself. After years of collecting Western materials they become symbols of his identity as a Westerner, while the essence of each object appeals to him as an artist.

Ojo Caliente places a gift shop cowboy beside collectible and handmade objects. Looking closely, the work shows a wide range of cultures– through examples of art forms– of the West all in one painting. The use of historic pieces such as the Pueblo black vessel and serape display the beauty of Native American objects and their unique surfaces. The 1950s cowboy bedspread and ceramic cowboy on horseback with saguaro present the West as tourist and entertainment products. Regardless of their origin, Shepherd places them together to compare and contrast their textures and shadows.


A feature work on view in the recent exhibition, Common Elegance: The Still Life Paintings of William Shepherd, this piece was gifted by the artist to the Tucson Museum of Art.

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