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The room is abuzz with a heady mix of excitement, appreciation and anticipation. Artists, admirers and acquirers, carefully sip wine as they move about the room, admiring the work. Alternately, they stand back, then move closer, assessing color, light, technique.

It is my first visit to Cody, WY and thus my first time to the Buffalo Bill Art Show & Sale, a well-known fine art event with a Western theme. The original works, presented by dozens of talented artists,  reflect the land, people and wildlife of the American West. Their creative expressions are presented in oil, watercolor, pastel, sculpture, ceramic and mixed media.

On this night, we are in the Buffalo Bill Historical Center’s John Bunker Sands Photography Gallery, viewing the participating artist’s work for the last time. We will soon move to the voluminous party tent where, along with several hundred others,  we will have the opportunity to see the pieces one more time . As the evening unfolds,  each will be bestowed to the highest bidder during, what I am told, is a spirited auction.

I have spent most of my adult life in the West. As a resident of Scottsdale, a major art center, I’ve had the good fortune to enjoy the work of many highly respected Western artists in our local galleries, museums and in the homes of friends who are serious collectors. While I have a few favorite pieces hanging in my Scottsdale home, my participation has been more about appreciation that acquisition.  But tonight, the work of John Gawne catches my eye.

As our preview session concludes, we decide to cast our own  Best of Show votes. We wonder aloud how our choices will compare with the larger group. Gawne’s haunting rendition of a Native American in colorful dress holds my interest and captures my vote.

Soon after, we wander through the cool night air to the festive tent, where we enjoy the company of other art lovers. Animated conversation shifts easily from the evening’s offerings to recent shows attended, to the splashy western-styled ensembles of fellow party-goers.

Once the auction is underway, the rapid fire skill of the auctioneer along with his young sons who offer assistance, is nearly as impressive as the artistic masterpieces that will sell to benefit the Buffalo Bill Museum. He holds the crowd’s attention as he moves across the stage, deftly reading the raised eyebrows and barely discernable head nods offered by participating patrons.

My heart skips a beat as the Gawne painting is presented. My paddle is in play early in the bidding. In no time, the piece moves out of my economic comfort range. It is my loss. But I am pleased for both the artist and the buyer who will enjoy such a beautiful work of art.

If final selling price is any indication, we feel good about our show favorites  and are grateful that a shaky economy has stilled long enough for the participating artists and the museum to benefit from a lovely evening.

Tomorrow, many of tonight’s artists will join other colleagues in the Robbie PowWow Garden to participate in a Quick Draw. Guests will enjoy a plentiful breakfast and then observe the artists at work as they miraculously complete a painting or sculpture in just one hour. Then, another auction will take place. And perhaps, this time, with any luck at all, I will go home with a John Gawne painting.


If you go:

 The Buffalo Bill Art Show & Sale benefits the prestigious Buffalo Bill Historical Center and is held in conjunction with the Center's Patrons Ball and Cody High Style, all part of Cody, Wyoming's annual "Rendezvous Royale" arts celebration.

Many of the events are educational and would be enjoyable for family members of all ages.  For more information about this year’s dates and the numerous events that take place before and during the weekend go to www.BuffaloBillArtShow.com or call 1.888.598.8119.

Lodging Pick: The Cody Hotel is a new and luxurious option in this decidedly western town. The Cody offers a  deluxe array of services and amenities including a  pool or spa, fitness center open 24 hrs, Chrysler touring bicycles, complimentary breakfast and evening refreshments. The 75 well-designed suites are well appointed, comfortable and include a flat screen TV, refrigerator, microwave and coffee/tea maker as well as high speed wireless internet, DVD player , iPod Docking Station, and  safes. www.TheCody.com.

For more information and resources visit www.CodyChamber.com or call (307) 587-2297.

Published in Explore