The ethos of the American West is founded on trailblazing; on flouting convention and venturing into unknown territory with a bold disregard for what others may have thought unwise or impossible. It’s one of constant forward momentum, not only geographically, but socially (for example, Wyoming was the first territory to grant women the vote back in 1869, followed by Utah in 1870), and technologically (Standard Time was instituted in 1883 as a necessary means by which train schedules could be determined—until then, cities and municipalities all used their own time standards, which proved problematic when transportation by rail connected them much more readily).
“Legend” is largely a story of forward movement in the West. The saddle is one symbol, the wheels are another, the flag (which, though it isn’t apparent in the painting, has only 48 stars), and even the knife driven into the table, representing the golden spike driven into the ground in 1869 at Promontory Summit in Utah Territory marking the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad (note how the gold pocket watch—time—is attached to this symbol of the railroad).
We in the American West live now as a continuation of that forward momentum. A painting that exists as a mere depiction of how things were would be anathema to the West’s core identity. We live in the present, not only in the past.
My way of conveying this is through the taped border around the piece itself. It shows that I as the artist, and consequently the viewer, look back at the future through a very modern frame of mind; one that selects and emphasizes some elements while masking or completely excluding others (the tape itself also represents a newer form of locomotion, namely the automobile. Masking tape was invented in 1925 by an autoworker who noticed that men painting autobodies needed a better way to control the application of paint on car exteriors). This of course is what I do as a painter: select certain elements to include in the story of each work. The result is always a legend—a story perhaps based in truth, but invariably altered this way and that until it becomes something altogether new.
In the end, a legend, much like the West, is constantly evolving. It’s an amalgam of truth and fiction, fact and fantasy. The tape provokes the question: what is real?