What Characterizes Contemporary Art?

There’s no need to be daunted by contemporary art. Simply consider that contemporary art is a broad term used to describe artwork created in the 21st century. A contemporary artist must be living and working in our lifetime, regardless of the medium or subject matter. With that definition in mind, it is easier to overcome the misconception of contemporary artwork as obscure conceptual pieces such as a high price tag on an old crust of bread or a shoelace tied around a cigarette butt. Although those examples can be considered contemporary art, contemporary art is actually defined by a lack of a uniform organizing principle. Part of what makes contemporary art exciting is the diversity of mediums and subject matter that explore ideas to question the present culture, imagine the future, or examine the past.

Western Contemporary Artists

Supporting art that documents change in America across three centuries is our organizing principle at Valley Fine Art. Our Contemporary Art collection is home to several remarkable artists from the 21st century whose work spans sculpture, painting, and photography. We feature Michael Naranjo, a sculptor who lives and works in Taos. Naranjo lost his eyesight and the use of his right hand while serving in Vietnam. Yet, his lifelike bronze sculptures are a visual and sensory experience because he encourages viewers to touch so that we may see them as he does.

Contemporary Art Aspen

Michael Naranjo, “Freedom” – Available at Valley Fine Art

Theodore Waddell is another of our favorite contemporary American artists. Waddell uses thick paint and encaustic to depict powerful Western landscapes and livestock images. Just as the natural world he portrays is always in motion, his works are never static. One can see and feel movement in Waddell’s brushstrokes. Waddell has a deep appreciation for nature and this magical life, and his interest in the dualities of life and death and struggle and change are common themes in his pieces. Recently featured in the Denver Art Museum, Waddell is displayed and collected internationally.

 Western Artists

Theodore Waddell, “Dillon Angus Dr. #4” – Available at Valley Fine Art

            We are also proud to feature the stunning photographs of Barbara Van Cleve. Barbara is a native Montanan who has practiced photography since she was 11 years old. She pulls from her innate understanding of ranch life to portray the intimate moments one can only catch while living and working closely with ranch animals. Her primarily black-and-white photography captures dramatic western scenes, often with a human or animal focal point.


 Western Contemporary Artists

Barbara Van Cleve, “Brewing Storm” – Available at Valley Fine Art

Contemporary Artists at Valley Fine Art

Although Naranjo, Waddell, and Van Cleve employ different mediums and methods, each artist breathes unique life into the idea of a western lifestyle, one of hardworking people, broad landscapes, and a unique connection with nature and animals.

If you’d like to learn more about contemporary artists, or would like to learn more about what contemporary art we have in our Aspen gallery, don’t hesitate to contact Valley Fine Art today for more information.