OKC’s 50-year-old Prix de West will feature works by Sherrie McGraw


When Sherrie McGraw was 20 years old, she was introduced to the magic of paint at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.  

“It actually was the first museum I ever stepped foot in … and the first museum where I saw real paintings. So, it does have a special place in my heart,” McGraw said, recalling she was especially enthralled in that initial 1975 visit by the works of esteemed Russian-American artist Nicolai Fechin (1881-1955). 

“It was unlike anything I’d seen, certainly. I had only seen reproductions in books. So, when I actually saw real paintings, it was quite a jolt.” 

Sherrie McGraw's oil painting "Twilight on the Pueblo" is featured in the 50th annual Prix de West Invitational Art Exhibition & Sale at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.

That jolt of inspiration sparked quite the career: Born in Wichita, Kansas, and raised in Ponca City, McGraw is now based in Taos, New Mexico, and has been at the forefront of the American art scene for three decades.  

And for the 28th year, she is making the pilgrimage back to Oklahoma to show her work in the National Cowboy Museum’s prestigious Prix de West Invitational Art Exhibition & Sale.  

“I feel very honored to be a part of the show,” McGraw said. “I feel like I know so many of the artists now in there. … It’s an interesting thing to see the ebb and flow over the years — and a little more of a presence of women in the show.”  

Clinton Cole of Grove looks at "Remains of the Day" by Sherrie McGraw at the 2020 Prix de West Invitational Art Exhibition & Sale at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020.

Prestigious exhibit Prix de West celebrates 50th anniversary 

One of the country’s premier annual Western art shows, the Prix de West is celebrating its 50th anniversary this summer. Showcasing nearly 300 original works by 94 top U.S. and international artists, the exhibit is on view through Aug. 7 at the National Cowboy Museum.  

“Since its beginnings as the National Academy of Western Art in 1973, Prix de West artists have represented the American West through painting and sculpture,” said museum President and CEO Natalie Shirley in a statement. “The Cowboy is proud to continue the tradition of preserving and promoting Western heritage and culture through this extraordinary event.” 

The 2022 Prix de West art sale weekend is set for June 17-18 and will include artist seminars, workshops, a cocktail reception, live auction and awards dinner. The sale is the museum’s largest annual fundraiser: It raised more than $2.8 million last year to support future exhibitions and programming. 

Born in Wichita, Kansas, raised in Ponca City and now based in Taos, New Mexico, Sherrie McGraw has been at the forefront of the American art scene for more than 30 years.

Painting is its own language to Oklahoma-bred artist 

As part of the festivities, McGraw and her mentor, husband and fellow artist David A. Leffel, who is participating in his 32nd Prix de West, will team up to teach anintensive three-day workshop June 20-23 on painting portraits and the costumed human figure.  

“It will be our first workshop since the (COVID-19) pandemic in person, so it’ll be pretty interesting,” McGraw said. “During the pandemic, we went to online instruction, and that actually was so much more successful than we could have even imagined. It allowed David and me to have conversations about painting that, frankly, we almost never have, except in that setting.” 

From paintings and drawings to sculptures and mixed-media works, the Prix de West annually rounds up a wide range of Western art, including cowboy and Native American scenes, landscapes, wildlife art, still lifes, historical depictions and more.  

Sherrie McGraw's mixed-media (charcoal, conté and pastel) work "One Bullet" is featured in the 50th annual Prix de West Invitational Art Exhibition & Sale at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.

Although she grew up in Oklahoma and has lived in New Mexico for 30 years, McGraw said she doesn’t think of herself — or her spouse, a native New Yorker — as fitting the traditional mold of Western artists. 

“I love painting, I love drawing, and I can go into Western subject matter and that’s fun. … But I think of subject matter as just a means to an end. How I think about painting is … as this whole language — and the beauty of it all is that I can paint and draw Western subject matter and it’s not a stretch, because it’s just subject matter,” said McGraw, who wrote the 2006 art book “The Language of Drawing.”  


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