An interview with the owner of Encounter with the Teton Sioux
One man’s vision to chronicle the Lewis and Clark expedition with fine art images
A private collector recently commissioned me to develop Encounter with the Teton Sioux, September 25, 1804 to be included in a Tucson Museum of Art exhibition devoted to fine art that chronicles the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1804-1806
My painting schedule is such that I seldom have time for commissions, but the opportunity to explore this subject matter was so enticing that I added it to my plate and worked on it over an entire year.
Encounter with the Teton Sioux depicts a crucial moment of the expedition, fraught with danger and unease. Black Buffalo of the Teton Sioux is calling off his men, Meriwether Lewis is caught with his hand on his sword, and the whole painting rings with tension and the potential for battle.
A collector chronicles the past
Encounter is part of a 25-plus-year collection of hundreds of paintings, each one depicting part of the expedition.
I am pleased to have my work join this notable collection, which includes work by Miller, Remington, and Russell and will be exhibited at the Tucson Museum of Art from October 23, 2010 to January 23, 2011.
You may be surprised to learn that despite the size of this art assemblage, there are still aspects of the journey which remain unrepresented in the man’s collection.
“There are many stories not yet depicted,” the collector says. “That’s what excited me about the scene in Encounter with the Teton Sioux: I did not have this early confrontation documented.”
Why choose the Lewis and Clark expedition as a collection base?
It takes dedication and persistence to put together a collection with this level of detail and importance. You may be wondering: Of all the historical events in the expansion of the American West, why focus on this expedition?
When I asked the collector this question, he did not equivocate: “It all comes down to leadership,” he said. “To pull off an expedition of this size with so few problems speaks volumes about the leadership abilities of the men in charge—and these are lessons that are still relevant today.”
Developing Encounter with the Teton Sioux, September 25, 1804
Since the current demand for my paintings does not allow me time to take commissions, working with this notable collector was an exciting diversion.
The story of our collaboration began eight years ago during a Lewis and Clark-themed group show at my gallery representative, Legacy Gallery.
My paintings were available by lottery draw, and this collector was not selected in the draw for my work. He has followed my career and when he was ready to add a new scene to his documentation of the historic Lewis and Clark expedition, he worked with Legacy to arrange the painting.
I received several suggestions from the collector on scenes he would like to see depicted, and he allowed me to determine which of the historical events sparked my interest.
After selecting this scene, I developed thumbnails, sketches, and finally, the finished work.
You can see the progression of the painting’s development here:
Reaction to Encounter with the Teton Sioux
To my delight, this collector’s seasoned eye discerned what I feel is the key to this painting: the disquiet inherent in the scene and the method I used to portray it.
“You really get a sense of the building tension,” the collector says. “You can feel the potential for confrontation with the striking number of characters and their intense focus on the encounter.”
For more information on my paintings
Please see my available works here: James Ayers Available Works to see my current paintings. If you are interested in commissioning a painting, please see my commissions page here: James Ayers Commissions.