Dodge City Daily Globe - Dodge City, KS
  • Artist brings cultural tradition and artistic interpretation together

  • Continuing a 17-year tradition, Landmark National Bank welcomes internationally recognized artist Amado M. Peña Jr. to the Western Art Show.

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  • Continuing a 17-year tradition, Landmark National Bank welcomes internationally recognized artist Amado M. Peña Jr. to the Western Art Show.
    Peña will be working in the lobby of the bank from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Friday, and things are off to a good start. According to Jeff Oliphant, market president of the bank, "We can tell how big the crowd is by how many cookies we go through — today has been good for a Monday."
    Meet the artist
    Peña's art is bold, colorful and dramatic, — and its sources are clear. A small sign on the work table reads "Peña — Tribal Artisan — Pascua Yaqui Tribe."
    Peña says his imagery over the past 20-odd years has two purposes: trying to maintain traditional philosophies about his people and trying to interpret those traditions in a contemporary way.
    To accomplish that, Peña incorporates traditional subject matter: people, pottery, weaving. His goal is to combine his cultural tradition with solid art.
    His recent work combines clay pieces with painted surfaces.
    "I have to grow artistically, but you always wonder what impact the art will make on an audience," Peña said.
    Peña spent a lot of time during his early career in galleries — his own and others. Now he prefers to be out on the road at art shows.
    "It's the same amount of work, I just take the art directly to the people,"he said.
    Peña is anxious to avoid a common artistic pitfall — when the art stays just between the artist and the canvas, an important component is missing.
    "We're in the business of providing a visual luxury, a spiritual luxury, something that provides emotional returns. You have to get out there and articulate your vision — you reinforce your philosophy by sharing it."
    Teaching and learning
    Peña suspects it was his good friend and fellow artist Buck Taylor who brought his work to the attention of the bank.
    "I taught Buck everything he knows about art," Peña said with a mischievous smile.
    And that would make sense.
    Peña has done his share of teaching. With two degrees of his own, both from Texas A & I, Peña has a strong committment to education.
    In fact, his belief in education was one of two motivating factors that lead him to form the Art Has Heart foundation, whose mission is to help deserving young students go to college and realize their dreams.
    "I realize that my own education was the result of advice, financial aid and support from others," Peña said in an interview with the Globe Monday afternoon.
    "I was also taught we should be grateful for what we have and if you can share, help or give, you should do it without hesitation. My father took care of anybody who needed a helping hand."
    Page 2 of 2 - "You're not alone in the world — your successes and failures are due to others. I don't want to forget that."
    Peña likes to challenge his students to explore their subject matter and find out what works for them.
    "When I was in art school, it was considered a sin if you sold a painting,” he said. “ I try to teach my students that they can bring art into even the most commercial piece. If art had no commercial value there would be no galleries, then there would be no Picassos."
    And the collection Peña has brought with him demonstrates his point. There are the large paintings, the prints and also the ties, greeting cards and puzzles.
    "I've been working on a line of cowboy boots, textiles and functional ceramics,” he said.
    On a journey
    Peña's career took off in 1987 when he was named Native American Artist of the Year by the Dine Be Keyah Museum in Page, Ariz.
    Two years later, he formed the Amado M. Peña Jr. scholarship fund at Austin Community College in Austin, Texas.
    In 1995 he was national spokesman for the March of Dimes "Think Ahead" campaign.
    He opened his gallery in Santa Fe, N. M. in 1996 and was given the Fascinating Texans award by the Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio. His work was featured in the movie "Selena" and included in the permanent collection of the National Muscum of America Art at the Smithsonian.
    In 2002 he became an adjunct professor at the University of Texas in Austin.
    He has had exhibitions in 21 states, and his work hangs in the Palacio de Gubernador, Baja California, Mexico and in the People's Republic of China.
    The Western Art Show at Landmark National Bank is a unique opportunity to meet an artist, watch him work, see an exhibit of his work and discuss it with the artist. And they have cookies.
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