Ken Riley Visits the Vail Valley
Monday, July 5, 2010
- Sure, he's 91 years old, but that doesn't seem to have slowed Ken Riley down much. Riley, a renowned western artist, and a handful of other artists represented by Claggett/Rey Gallery, are in town this weekend to help the gallery celebrate its 21st anniversary.
"He's the youngest 91-year-old you've ever seen," said Bill Rey, gallery owner. "And he isn't slowing down. He's painting more than ever."
The gallery will be exhibiting six paintings by Riley this weekend and hosting an artist reception with Riley and several other gallery artists from 5 to 8 p.m. today.
A realist oil painter of the historical West, Riley was born in Waverly, Missouri in 1919 and enrolled in the Kansas City Art Institute when he was 19 years old. In 1941, he moved on to the Art Students League and Frank Vincent DuMond in New York City, with evening classes at the Grand Central School of Art and Harvey Dunn. Soon Riley was selling illustrations, working for National Geographic, the Saturday Evening Post, and other national publications. One painting was even accepted by President Kennedy for the White House collection.
"He was a big New York illustrator. He's really known as a great designer and colorist in the world of western art," Rey said.
Riley's current focus is the life, culture and philosophies of native peoples, particularly the Apache, Mandan and Plains tribes. A dedicated researcher, Riley draws upon factual resources that include journals and diaries, as well as the visual records left by explorer artists such as George Catlin. Riley's art is both a literal story of a landscape and its inhabitants, paired with a romantic commentary about the families, tribes, clans and nations.
"He's honored his subjects in everything he does," Rey said. "He's a rare breed, and to still be creating enthusiastically at 91 is great."
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