The Trappings of Texas may not be the largest Western art show, but it showcases world-class pieces from emerging and established artists and gear makers.

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The Trappings of Texas is the largest event held at the Museum of the Big Bend and raises funds for educational outreach programs. Photo by Jennifer Denison.

It’s not always easy to get to Alpine, Texas, unless you live nearby. The closest major airports are more than two hours away, and the town is tucked between the Davis and Glass mountains, in a remote southwestern part of the state. It’s a destination for outdoor recreation, breathtaking scenery, live music and one of Western art’s best-kept secrets: the Trappings of Texas.

Trapping Blake
Off the Top, 30-by-20-inch watercolor, by Teal Blake. Image courtesy of Museum of the Big Bend.

The 39th annual Western art and gear show opened April 14 at the Museum of the Big Bend, located on the Sul Ross State University campus, and remains on display through May 15. It features more than 100 pieces of fine art and functional gear created by 60 artists who know cowboy life well and bring authenticity and excellence to the juried exhibition and sale.

“The event showcases the work of men and women who are involved in some aspect of ranching, but are also artisans,” says Mary Bones, curator of exhibits at the museum.

The show also supports emerging and established artists and collectors, offering a range of different mediums, sizes of artwork and affordable prices. Through the years, several regional artists including bit and spur maker Wilson Capron and fine artist Wayne Baize, who got their start at the show have went on to become members of the prestigious Cowboy Artists of America and Traditional Cowboy Arts Association. Longtime exhibitor and CAA inductee Teal Blake of Fort Worth, Texas, painted this year’s signature piece, “Off the Top,” a 30-by-20-inch watercolor.

Trapping Asher
Mustachio, 171/2-by-14-inch pencil, by Brian Asher. Image courtesy of Museum of the Big Bend.

Started in 1977, the Trappings of Texas was held for many years in conjunction with the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering, which celebrated it’s 30th anniversary in February. Two years ago, museum director Liz Jackson made the difficult decision to break away from the gathering and hold the Trappings of Texas in the spring.

“It was the very best thing for both events, because hotels were filled and people were having to drive over an hour to find lodging; it was overwhelming for these little towns,” she explains.

The museum was packed both at the preview party and opening night. During the weekend, participants also had the chance to attend educational art discussions and demonstrations, and start the day with a chuckwagon breakfast and blacksmithing demonstration by Capron and Buddy Knight sponsored by and held at Big Bend Saddlery. The event wrapped up with true Texas hospitality at the Ranch Round-Up, hosted by Kay and Don Green at the historic Meriwether Ranch. Guests at the exclusive dinner enjoyed cuisine prepared by award-winning chuckwagon cook Lonnie Rodriguez of the WR Ranch and were serenaded by a mariachi trio.

Trapping Westby
Genuine Steer Hide, 14-by-18-inch oil on hard board, by Rygh Westby. Image courtesy of Museum of the Big Bend.

While many large Western art events are black-tie affairs, the Trappings of Texas is less formal. Attendees can come in their boots and jeans, and even handle some of the gear on display during the show. The casual, friendly environment created throughout the weekend allows the artists and collectors to interact and form personal connections.

“We’ll never be the biggest art show or the fanciest one,” says Jackson. “But if we stay true to our mission [of showcasing the work of artists connected to the ranching lifestyle], we will remain authentic and unique.”

Trapping Kaiser
Trepidation, 161/2-by-24-by-18-inch bronze, by H.R. “Heather” Kaiser. Image courtesy of Museum of the Big Bend.
Trapping Capron
Windmill rowel spurs with ¾-inch band with sterling-silver overlay and Chihuahua-style shank, by Wilson Capron. Image courtesy of Museum of the Big Bend.
Trapping Quisenberry
California-style rawhide quirt by Graeme Quisenberry. Image courtesy of Museum of the Big Bend.
Trapping Spiller
One-inch tooled leather headstall with sterling silver on steel conchos and buckle, by Baru Spiller. Image courtesy of Museum of the Big Bend.

For more information and to view an online catalog, visit museumofthebigbend.com.

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