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 Joe Neil Beeler  (1931 - 2006)

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Lived/Active: Arizona/Missouri      Known for: cowboy genre painting, western sculpture

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A founding member of the Cowboy Artists of America*, Joe Beeler was a pioneer in contemporary western art and is accomplished in both painting and bronzes.  At annual exhibitions of the CAA, Beeler earned numerous Sculpture Awards: Silver, 2000; Gold 1993; Gold and Silver, 1990; Silver 1973; and Gold, 1971, 1969, and 1967.  In 2001, he received the CAA Special Lifetime Achievement Award.

He was born on Christmas Day, 1931 in Joplin, Missouri and was early recognized as having art talent.  He was raised in Oklahoma and Missouri and received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Kansas State Teachers College and continued studies at the Art Center School in Los Angeles.

He served in the Korean War and taught at Tulsa University and Kansas State Teachers College, which he later credited as giving him the art background he needed.  His art career began with illustration assignments with the University of Oklahoma Press in Norman.  He continued as a free-lance illustrator and began selling his work to ranchers.

A 1960 one-man show at the Thomas L Gilcrease Museum in 1960 launched his career of national acclaim, honors, and awards.  From 1962, he and his family have lived in Sedona, Arizona where his studio has been on five acres of land.  In 2002, he was selected by the family of Barry Goldwater, former United States Senator from Arizona, to sculpt the statue of the Senator for a one-acre park named for him at Tatum and Lincoln streets in Paradise Valley, Arizona.

Joe Beeler died on April 26, 2006.  The circumstances were fitting for this man whose life had been dedicated to memorializing the American west, especially his home state of Arizona.  He died on his Sedona ranch of a heart attack while dragging calves to a branding fire.  "No cowboy could ask for a better way to go than being horseback and with his boots on.  Mr. Beeler died doing what he loved."

Sources include:
Files of the Phoenix Art Museum Library
CA Cowboy Artists of America 44th Annual Exhibition, 2009, Cowboy Artists of America and The Phoenix Art Museum.
Art of the West
Southwest Art
Obituary, Red Rock News, Sedona, Arizona, May 3, 2006, courtesy, Fran Elliott, Art Collector and Historian, Sedona

* For references, see AskART Glossary http://www.askart.com/AskART/lists/Art_Definition.aspx

Biography from Jackson Hole Art Auction:
A founding member of the Cowboy Artists of America, Joe Beeler served as a catalyst in the field of contemporary western art throughout his long career. Born on Christmas day in 1931 in Joplin Missouri, Beeler grew up surrounded by the cowboys, ranchers, and Native Americans that would later inspire his art. With Cherokee ancestry on his father’s side, Beeler always felt an affinity for Native American life and spent his summers dancing in powwows in Oklahoma as a teen. As he himself said, “I was more Indian on the inside than the outside.” Throughout his travels to dance at powwows, Beeler never stopped cataloging, learning, and observing the dress, mannerisms, and customs of everyone he met. Never without his sketchbook, he developed an early appreciation for the distinct cultures of each Native American tribe he met, which later lent his artwork an authenticity that shown through.

After a short stint at junior college, Beeler moved west to Arizona where he worked as a cowboy for some time. Despite his affinity for the work, his hands itched for pen and paintbrush and Beeler returned to Oklahoma in 1950 to study art at the University of Tulsa. Answering the call of duty, Beeler went to Korea in 1953 with the United States Army. Continuing to sketch and study everything around him, he created illustrations for Stars and Stripes while deployed. Upon returning stateside, Beeler met Sharon McPherson in 1956, and two weeks after their first date he proposed. Beeler completed his B.A. in fine arts at Pittsburg State University in Kansas. Wanting to be closer to the art scene, Beeler moved to Los Angeles and continued his formal artistic training at the Art Center School there. California proved to be an ill-fit for the couple, and they returned to the Oklahoma-Kansas line and lived in a little cabin on Five Mile Creek.

In 1958 Beeler received his first major break when the University of Oklahoma Press hired him to illustrate their various western and historical publications. Just two years later the Gilcrease held a one-man exhibition for Beeler, and in 1961 the Montana Historical Society followed suit. The same year, Beeler moved his family to Sedona, Arizona, where his career truly flourished. In 1965 Beeler founded the Cowboy Artists of America with three of his contemporaries, and later that year he became the first contemporary artist to have a one-man show at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame. Proficient in a variety of media, Beeler left an indelible mark on the development and trajectory of western art in America.

Sources:
Joe Beeler: Paintings and Sculptures of the American West, introduction by Don Hedgpeth, Northland Printing: Flagstaff, Arizona.
The Joe Beeler Sketch Book, by Joe Beeler, Northland Press: Flagstaff, Arizona, 1974.
Cowboys and Indians: Characters in Oil and Bronze, by Joe Beeler, University of Oklahoma Press: Norman, Oklahoma, 1967.

Biography from Trailside Galleries:
The name Joe Beeler is one that needs no introduction. A pioneer in the field of Western art, he has combined a lifetime of experience on the range with formal art training at Tulsa university and the Art Center School of Design in California to become one the nation’s preeminent artists working in western genre today.

A native of Joplin, Missouri with a hefty dose of Cherokee blood, Beeler’s keen interest in the West manifested itself through his childhood drawings, impressions he experienced while growing up in an area rich with colorful history and the enduring pioneer spirit. His professional career began in illustration at the University of Oklahoma Press. From there, he pursued a career as a full time artist.

A one-man show at the Gilcrease Museum in 1960 helped pave the way towards national success and acclaim. Since then he has won multiple awards and has exhibited in most of the nation’s top western art museums including The Wolloroc Museum, National Cowboy Hall of Fame, Montana Historical Society, Charles M. Russell Museum, the Heard, Whitney and the Institute of Texas Cultures.

In 1965, he helped found the Cowboy Artists of America, an organization credited with much of the popularity of western art today.Whether sitting at his easel or in the saddle, Joe Beeler has always enjoyed telling a good story and no where is that more apparent than through his art.

A self confessed romantic, he strives to go beyond just the technique and convey feeling and mood in both his painting and sculpture. While much of his subject matter is contemporary, he particularly enjoys creating historical scenes. Much of the reference material comes from his own personal collection of Indian artifacts, cowboy paraphernalia and an extensive library of western books. Joe Beeler and his wife Sharon live in Sedona, Arizona.

Biography from Claggett/Rey Gallery:
Joe Beeler grew up in the Osage country of the Missouri-Oklahoma borderland like a young Huck Finn on horseback. With a pedigree that traces to a proud people enriched by Cherokee blood, he learned early how to rope, ride and hunt, and soon developed a knack for drawing cowboys, Indians and horses. He filled his head and heart with tales of old-timers, with his own adventures of horses and cattle, and with the vivid impressions of the swirling color and excitement of Quapaw powwows.

After a stint in Korea with Uncle Sam, Beeler met and married Sharon McPherson in the summer of 1956. He earned a degree in fine art from Kansas State College, and then went on to California for further study at the Art Center School in Los Angeles. Back in Osage country after just a year out West, the Beelers settled in a small rural cabin where Joe struggled to paint for a living with time off daily to shoot something for supper.

Tough times measure a man's mettle. Beeler painted neighboring ranchers' prize bulls and horses, and worked tirelessly on more meaningful pieces in the tradition of his hero, Charlie Russell. Recognition came slow, but it came, and in 1961 the Beelers left the Oklahoma hills for the red rocks of Sedona, Arizona. With new country and fresh inspiration, Beeler's talent quickened to a gallop.

In the almost 40 years since, Beeler has earned his place in the vanguard of the contemporary Western art movement, with one-man exhibitions at every major Western art museum venue and as a founding member of the Cowboy Artists of America.

The faces in Joe Beeler's paintings and sculptures shine with the wonder of Western life. Their eyes look both within and without, searching for and capturing the soul of the land.

Biography from RoGallery.com:
A pioneer in the field of Western art, Joe Beelr has combined a lifetime of experience on the range with formal art training at Tulsa University and the Art Center School of Design in California.

A native of Joplin, Missouri with a hefty dose of Cherokee blood, Beeler had keen interest in the West, which manifested itself through his childhood drawings, impressions he experienced while growing up in an area rich with colorful history and the enduring pioneer spirit.  His professional career began in illustration at the University of Oklahoma Press.  From there, he pursued a career as a full time artist.

A one-man show at the Gilcrease Museum in 1960 helped pave the way towards his career.  Since then he has won multiple awards and has exhibited in most of the nation’s top western art museums including The Wolloroc Museum, National Cowboy Hall of Fame, Montana Historical Society, Charles M. Russell Museum, the Heard, Whitney and the Institute of Texas Cultures.

In 1965, he helped found the Cowboy Artists of America, an organization credited with much of the popularity of western art today. Whether sitting at his easel or in the saddle, Joe Beeler always enjoyed telling a good story and nowhere is that more apparent than through his art.

A self confessed romantic, he strove to go beyond just the technique and convey feeling and mood in both his painting and sculpture.  While much of his subject matter is contemporary, he particularly enjoyed creating historical scenes.  Much of the reference material comes from his own personal collection of Indian artifacts, cowboy paraphernalia and an extensive library of western books.

Joe Beeler lived with his wife Sharon in Sedona, Arizona.

Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, I:
A founding member of Cowboy Artists of America, Joe Beeler was a pioneer in the territory of contemporary Western art. He was there at the beginning of the tremendous development of that territory in the early 1960’s.

The key event in Beeler’s pioneering activity was the founding, in 1965, of the Cowboy Artists of America. From that association of like-minded people flows a stream of fine art works-making the exhibition eagerly anticipated and commercially successful.

Raised in Oklahoma and Missouri, Beeler received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Kansas State Teachers College and continued his studies at the Art Center School in Los Angeles. His professional career began in illustration at the University of Oklahoma Press in Norman. This gave him the confidence to pursue an artist’s career, and collectors were quick to acquire his paintings.

The success of his one-man show at the Thomas Gilcrease Museum in 1960 established him on a course that would lead to nation acclaim and a string of honors and awards.

Numerous medals and awards have been bestowed on Beeler’s work, including fold and silver honors in sculpture, silver in drawing and an Artists’ Choice Award, all from the CAA organization; there aren’t many artists who can claim such versatility. In 1994, the Arizona Historic League named him an “Arizona History Maker” – an award presented to a very select group of Arizonans. In 1998, Canada’s Cowboys Festival presented “Living Legends Awards” to six individuals in different categories of cowboy culture, and Beeler was the artist honored by the Canadian group.

ReSources include: 2002 Cowboy Artists of America

Biography from Mark Sublette Medicine Man Gallery Santa FeTucson:
Joe Beeler was born in Joplin, Missouri in 1931.  Part Cherokee, Beeler had a connection to the West that began to be realized artistically at an early age.  As a child, he drew often, and continued to develop artistically in college at Kansas State Teachers College before being accepted at and attending the Art Center School of Design in Los Angeles, CA.

After finishing with his studies, Joe Beeler worked as an illustrator for the University of Oklahoma Press.  Life as a full-time artist was difficult at first, but Beeler was recognized for his excellence during his life.  A one-man show at the Gilcrease Museum in 1960 helped to launch his career and, in 1962, he and his family moved to Sedona, AZ, where they still live today.

In 1965, Joe Beeler and several other artists specializing in western and cowboy subject matter started the Cowboy Artists of America, an organization that has done more than perhaps any other to popularize and legitimize western art amongst a new generation of American art collectors.

Joe Beeler has earned such important commissions as a 10-foot statue of Barry Goldwater in Paradise Valley, AZ.  A personal friend of Goldwater's and one of the pivotal figures in the resurgence of a vital American art form, Joe Beeler was the obvious choice for such a commission.

His work has been displayed in almost every significant western museum, including the Wolloroc Museum, the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, the Montana Historical Society, the Charles M. Russell Museum, the Heard Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Institute of Texas Cultures.

Biography from Leanin’ Tree and Sculpture Garden of Western Art:
“Bidding For a Bride”Oil - 1981

A proud warrior has brought his son to the lodge of the maiden’s family. The two of them came prepared with many goods and are here to barter. Already they have parted with a decorated medicine bag and a valuable rifle, complete with loaded cartridge belt. A protective grandmother is about to demand the rare cast iron cooking pot and the maiden’s father has his eye on that fine bay horse. Younger brother is hoping that before the trading has ended the family will possess both horses. The talk will go on all afternoon, the visitors will be asked to sit, and by evening’s light the contract will be sealed with a few draws on the pipe.

The Indians of the plains tribes are favorite subjects of Joe Beeler, though he is equally famous for his genuine and earthy cowboy paintings. He traces his own Cherokee bloodlines through his father. His younger years were spent absorbing the down home culture of rural Missouri and Oklahoma. A fine arts degree from Kansas State Teachers College was followed by a year at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles.

In 1960 the Gilcrease Museum gave Joe his first important one man show. In 1965 he cast his first bronze sculpture, and in that medium he has achieved excellence. Several of his sculpture pieces can be viewed throughout this museum.

Perhaps Joe Beeler’s greatest contribution to the renaissance of western art was his participation as one of the five founders of the Cowboy Artists of America, now recognized as a prestigious association of western artists. Beeler now lives in Sedona, Arizona, where he continues to paint and sculpt the Indians and cowboys of the American West.

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Joe Beeler is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
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