Cowboys, Yodeling, and Watercolor

Categories: Newsletters, Rotach, Marlin, and Weller, Don.

Art comes in many different forms. While at Art of the West we primarily focus on visual fine arts, the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering encompasses many of the different art forms central to Western life. Founded in 1985, the Cowboy Poetry Gathering is a week-long coming-together of people rooted in the poetry, music, and arts of cowboy country.

Historically, the Gathering has focused on the performing and written arts. With dozens of  musicians, poets, and special guests, as well as workshops in rawhide braiding, yodeling, and traditional Cowboy cooking, Elko transforms into a haven for the history and culture of the cowboy. This year, the Northeastern Nevada Museum is also bringing visual fine arts to town for the event.

Western artists and friends Don Weller and Marlin Rotach have long had a mutual respect and love of the watercolor medium. Rotach recalls Weller approaching him about 6 years ago saying, “We need to do an art show together. We paint very similar subject matter but have very different approaches to watercolor.”

Their aspirations grew put on a show of as many Western watercolorists as they could, both living and deceased. They quickly realized that the logistics of organizing a show that large, especially to include the historical pieces, would be almost impossible. Instead they dedicated themselves to writing a book about the watercolorists of the West, titled The River Flows: Watercolors of the American West, which was released in 2022 “Both of us worked hard and had a lot of fun researching and putting together the book,” Weller says. “Marlin made friends with the people at several museums, one of which was the Northeastern Nevada Museum in Elko.”

The Northeastern Nevada Museum approached them shortly after the book was finished to see if the two of them would want to do a show together at the time of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering as a way to bring visual fine art into Elko for the Gathering. They jumped on the idea, as it brought them back to their roots of wanting to do a show together. “I think the [National Cowboy Poetry Gathering] is the perfect time for us to do a show in Elko. All of the people there truly love the West,” Rotach says. “We hope to expand the consciousness of those there and that our work can be every bit as visually poetic as the music and spoken word is down the road.”