June 24, 2024
Art Gallery

Art Gallery: Kevin Chupik

Kevin Chupik’s Americana paintings mix Old and New West for a fresh take on cowboy cool.

They’re like a still frame from an episode of The Twilight Zone. A late-1950s cowboy sits in the corner booth of a mid-century diner, deep in thought. His back to the viewer, he gazes out the picture window at the desert stretching to the horizon, empty save for a vintage neon sign and a couple of Joshua trees. And just what is he pondering? “It’s rather purposeful,” confides artist Kevin Chupik of his characters with that 100-mile stare. “I want to be able to grab the viewer and provoke them to want to know more about it.”

Deep End.

Thought-provoking is but one description of the truly original art of the Fort Worth, Texas, painter. Chupik places his Marlboro-men-type cowboys, often horseback, in unlikely scenes: coiling a rope in the neon light of a roadside motel carport; standing beside a turquoise station wagon at a drive-in movie, intently watching The Searchers on the big screen; sitting atop a corral, watching a giant neon bronc rider.

Intriguing, attention-getting, captivating Americana. Imagine Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks set instead in a desert diner. Or stills from Giant if it had been directed by Andy Warhol. Striking and somehow both familiar and fresh. “I kind of embrace the Western myths that maybe Hollywood and our own mythology have crafted,” Chupik says. “I use that as a starting point and a springboard for making what I hope to be new interpretations, new landscapes, new combinations, new narratives. I’m not trying to do the same imagery that has been out there.”

Desert Solitaire

The native Texan has the West in his blood. Chupik’s mom grew up playing under the desk at her grandmother’s office at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, where Gene Autry sometimes stopped in. He was 10 when his family moved to Tucson, Arizona, where the future artist reveled in the beauty and mystique of the Sonoran Desert. The highways of the American Southwest his family often traveled etched that arid, beautiful, and mysterious land deep in his psyche. “That all built this kind of nostalgia and mystique about the act of traveling in the desert that I think is really the cornerstone of what I do now and the way that I remember it,” he says. “It’s really about desert car travel. I think that’s why I always like using vintage cars, because I want to reference that era when you were traveling as a family and stopping at motels.”

Glow West

The painter studied art at Texas Christian University, but grad school in Colorado left him burned-out. His focus shifted to outdoor adventure — mountain biking, hiking, and climbing — until an accident put him in a wheelchair at the age of 29. He returned to art, teaching in Las Vegas at the College of Southern Nevada. But he no longer painted the West. “It was almost like I purposely turned my back on the imagery that I was so passionate about,” Chupik says. “It was too painful to focus on that.”

That changed in 2014, with his one-man show, Clarity of Youth, which depicted “the things kids play with and are fascinated with.” It was during that show, he says, that he rediscovered and decided to focus on what he really enjoyed. “And that was imagery that was Western in its roots.”

Bone Collector

Today, Chupik’s sometimes-surreal, always-colorful creations are a hit, with collectors including the prestigious Booth Western Art Museum. He completes about 12 paintings a year and is often completely sold-out, all without the help of a gallery.

Chupik once again calls Fort Worth home. The modern Cowtown proud of its Old West roots and New West outlook seems a perfect fit for Chupik’s blend of New and Old West, modern and vintage, with striking color, creativity, and compositions that straddle worlds that rarely intersect. “My name’s getting thrown around in some pretty cool places, so, I’m excited,” he says. “Where it goes from here, who knows? But I’m doing the work and putting it out there. It’s a good time to be a Fort Worth, Texan, Western artist.”

Setting Sun

Visit Kevin Chupik online at kevinchupik.com.

From our July 2024 issue.

PHOTOGRAPHY: Courtesy of the artist

HEADER IMAGE: Desert Ratio

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *