Cowboy clay artist will open new show

Clyde Davis: Local Columnist

What he does, in the case of cowboy artist Curtis Fort of Tatum, is to create clay sculptures of beauty and authenticity, depictions of the ranching lifestyle, past and present. These clay pieces are then cast in bronze and released in limited editions.

To say cowboy artist is to say not only artist of the cowboy lifestyle, but also both cowboy and artist. Fort is the real thing, a man whose knowledge of horses, cattle, ranching and riding goes far beyond the studio. This kind of art can’t be created from books; it has to be experienced firsthand.

I could relate to this, as I visited with Fort about his upcoming show. Being a decoy carver, I know from experience that you have to be with waterfowl, love waterfowl, watch waterfowl, and get your hands and boots wet spending time with waterfowl, in order to effectively do justice in wood to their living beauty. It can’t be accomplished sitting inside looking at bird books.

Don’t know much about horses, except that I enjoy riding one occasionally. However, I do know enough to appreciate the realism, the intuitive understanding, that goes into the work of Fort, whose work will be featured in an opening at Investments Out West, on the square in Portales, on Nov. 19.

Sam, Marilyn and Rusty, the Investments crew are looking at a block party that day with music in conjunction with the featuring of Curtis’ work. To make it easy to remember, that will be the Friday before Thanksgiving.

The piece I loved most, a very large bronze, depicts a bronc rider literally hanging in midair, horse jumping off the base on his hind legs. To top it all off, there are details included in this piece that make it authentically a rodeo rider of the 1920s or 1930s, not a contemporary broncbuster. Got your curiosity up? You’ll just have to stop over and see it.

Next week, we will share a little more about the bronzing process itself, but understanding where Fort comes from is our focus this week.

The son of a Tatum rancher, Fort first came to appreciate western art through the paintings on a Charlie Russell calendar and the Will James books he read as a boy.

Spending time at New Mexico State University, getting a degree in range science, better equipped Fort to pursue his true dream of becoming a quality cowboy.

He went to work for the Bell Ranch following graduation. At this time, as a young man, his major focus in life was to experience as much of the cowboy lifestyle as he could, and this job gave him the chance to work in a mountain environment much different than the area in which he had grown up.

We will spend more time with Fort next week, as I’m outta space, but circle Nov. 19 for the opening at Investments Out West.

Clyde Davis is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Portales and an instructor at Eastern New Mexico University. He can be contacted at: