Arizona’s Settlers West Galleries prepares to host its annual American Miniatures show.
For 30 years, a replica of a red Cheyenne shield has hung on a wall in the studio of Howard Terpning, an artist renowned for his Native American–themed paintings. That’s nearly as long as he’s been contributing miniature works to an annual show at Settlers West Galleries in Tucson, Ariz. This year, the shield and the show have come together. The former is the focus of Cheyenne Red Shield, Terpning’s contribution to the 2016 edition of the gallery’s American Miniatures exhibition, which takes place February 13.
“I always thought I was going to do a painting of that shield someday,” says Terpning, who is 88. “I didn’t realize it would take this long and end up being a miniature. I could have done it larger. It probably would have been successful. But the way I did it for a miniature works well. It’s very simple. It’s visual. It reads well. You can tell instantly what’s going on. I think if you have to look at a painting and study it to figure out what’s going on, it’s not that successful.”
Cheyenne Red Shield will be displayed among a total of nearly 400 original American West–themed paintings and sculptures from more than 200 artists. The paintings are no larger than 10 inches by 12 inches (except for Terpning’s, which is 13 inches by 10 inches), the sculptures no taller than 10 inches. “It’s always a great event for us, and it brings people to town,” says Stuart Johnson, a co-owner of Settlers West.
Johnson was inspired to create the miniatures show after visiting a friend who owned a gallery in Kalispell, Mont., and did well with a Christmastime display of small works. The inaugural American Miniatures show took place in 1982 and included works from about 75 artists. Terpning was one of them, and since then the show and his work have only grown in popularity.
Terpning’s full-size paintings routinely sell for six and seven figures at auction. He produces only one petite work per year, expressly for Settlers West. This year’s offering will be sold through a silent auction that will open at $38,000 and likely close at more than $100,000.
The American Miniatures show tends to draw two types of buyers: people who are dipping their toes into the art market (most pieces sell for $1,000 to $3,000) and collectors who are seeking pieces to grace niches, hallways, stairwells, and similar spaces in a home. Rica Spivack and her husband, Harvey, have collected paintings large and small from Settlers West since 1980. “We prefer miniatures that go with the theme of the collection, which is painters of the American West,” she says. The Spivacks’ 35 miniatures represent about 20 percent of their overall art collection and include works from such luminaries as William Acheff, Mian Situ, Robert Griffing, and the late Kenneth Riley. “Every one of the miniatures tells a story. They don’t just sit there,” she says. “They all have something to say.”
Settlers West Galleries, settlerswest.com