Nov 19, 2013
The first artwork ever to be displayed at the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum belonged to Robert “Shoofly” Shufelt. Fifteen years after he graciously loaned some of his lithographs for a temporary exhibit, Shufelt and his wife, Julie, have donated his collection to the museum for a new exhibition.
To showcase this compilation of Shufelt’s work, the museum staff renovated part of the Generations exhibit in the Heritage Gallery to create a new fine art section called the Heritage Art Gallery. About 50 or 60 of the 132 “Shoofly” lithographs donated to the Museum will make up the initial art exhibit, which opens Nov. 23.
“Robert Shufelt is world-renowned,” said Museum Chief Curator Toni Laumbach. “He is among the best in the field of fine art that depicts the cowboy and daily ranch life.”
Shufelt retired from the commercial art world in order to get away from deadlines. In 1975, he and his wife Julie moved west from Chicago, settling first in Tucson, and later in Wickenburg, Ariz. Since 1991, the Shufelts have called New Mexico their home.
Shoofly’s respect for ranching as a way of life is clearly stated in his art. He has raised horses and cattle, and his art portrays a story of hard work and relationships with animals.
Shufelt, who says being an artist “is a compulsion, not a decision,” is a master of the pencil. He brings to life dramatic imagery with bold sunlight and shadow. Each original drawing is astonishing with complexity of composition and disciplined draftsmanship. The prints are done in runs of 300 or less.
“Cowboys have always been my heroes,” he said. “Most of today’s cowboy art romanticizes and thus misrepresents the cowboy. I know of no other labor which involves so much skill for so little pay as that of the professional cowboy. My aspiration for drawing the ‘cowboy way’ is to depict the spirit of ranching. I never stage a theme to draw, but work from environmental and cultural involvement with my subject.”
After the move from Chicago to Arizona, Shufelt said he was able to grow as an artist and develop ranching friendships that inspired his artwork through the individuality, spirit and integrity of the “cowboy way.” The Shufelts, who live in Hillsboro, N.M., are a team and Robert said no drawing leaves his studio without his wife’s blessing. “It’s a darn thrill when I can produce a drawing that honors my wife’s enthusiasm.
“My ultimate wish is for my work to be effective long after I’m gone and to have my drawings be a part of an artistic and cultural history,” he said. “I thank the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum for illuminating that possibility.”
The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for senior citizens, and $2 for children ages 5 to 17. Children 4 and under, museum friends members and U.S. military veterans with I.D. receive free admission. For more information, call (575) 522-4100.