Most of artist Morgan Weistling’s art depicts scenes from the mid-to late-1800s rural American life, a time of the settling and defining values of United States. It’s a not too distant past that is recognizable, but just barely. In 2001, “The Dance” made Weistling the youngest person ever to win the Prix de West Award – he also won the Nona Jean Hulsey Buyers’ Choice Award – from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma where it is now in the museum’s permanent collection.
Morgan’s daughter, Brittany, posed for this painting when she was five years old. “Looking back on this painting 10 years later, I can still feel the music and remember the inspiration that stirred this idea,” says Morgan. “Brittany and I were visiting a Cowboy Poetry and Music festival and at one point she began to dance to some musicians much like in the painting. I later re-created that scene in my studio. I will always cherish the memories of Brittany and I dancing together as the musicians played for us.”
This darling slip of a girl with a white apron dances on wooden floorboards worn smooth enough to twirl barefoot. We can almost feel the vibration of the music ourselves as the men lean into the rhythm and the expression of the music in her dance step. It’s been a long week of hard labor but tonight that melts away in a spirit of shared music and joy.
Weistling’s star continues to rise. He sold all four entries this year (2011) to the Masters of the American West Exhibition and Sale at the Autry National Center, where he won the Patron’s Choice Award for the third time.