Artist Curt Walters of Sedona, Arizona, is best known as a plein-aire impressionist. Recognized worldwide for his impeccable interpretation of the Grand Canyon, Art of the West magazine was first to herald him as the "Greatest Living Grand Canyon Artist" in 1997. Since then, Art of the West has gone on to include Walters as one of Eight True Masters, saying: "...many museums and collectors don't feel their collections are complete unless they include a Walters' painting."
Walters has long had an eye--and desire--for art. When he was 14, his sister was given a paint set for her birthday. "It took me about two minutes to steal it from her," he quips. From there, he took to copying the brushstrokes of the paintings on the walls of their New Mexican farmhouse, and at the age of 15, Walters sold his first piece.
Four years later, the fledgling young artist visited the Grand Canyon for the first time, and so began a lifelong love affair. "I get the same feeling today as I did that first time, thirty-five years ago."
Since then, Walters has focused much of his time and energies on Grand Canyon...but not only as an artist. In the early '90's, the growing amount of air pollution over the gorge (something unintentionally documented within his paintings) began to concern Walters. Shortly thereafter, he learned of The Grand Canyon Trust, and how they were fighting pollution's damaging effects throughout the entire Colorado Plateau. More than ten years and $500,000 later--much of which has been collected from donated paintings--Walters is still eager to meet new environmental challenges through the Trust. For his hard work and dedication, he was honored as "Official Artist of The Grand Canyon Trust." In 2002, Walters also joined forces with The Grand Canyon Foundation.
At one time, Walters did not consider himself the "protest type," but now he says, "I think there's a part of me that could very much be a social activist in my work. I think many artists throughout history have had social agendas and political agendas within their work. I don't think the great artists stopped and said, 'Let's just paint a pretty picture.' I know I love using my paintings in ways that go beyond just the act of painting."
Though near and dear to his heart, the Grand Canyon alone does not delimit Curt Walters' talent. He often returns to Colorado and New Mexico--where he cut his artistic teeth--for painting sojourns. For the 2004 Prix de West Art Exhibition, Walters entered a 36" x 28" study of his childhood home, entitled "Mom’s La Plata Garden." A second entry, "Trinchera Summer," is Walters' vision of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Southern Colorado, as seen from the Forbes' Trinchera Ranch, where the artist had organized a four-day "paint in" among a dozen of his Prix de West contemporaries in 2003.
While his American travels have taken him from sea to shining sea, Canada to Mexico, his overseas journeys have taken Walters to some of the world's most exotic locations. Some of his most popular foreign endeavors embody the bright, spirited vibrancy of Bali, Indonesia and the venerable grace of Venice, Italy. His most recent travels have lead his palette from the Forbes' Chateau de Balleroy in Normandy, France, to Prague in the Czech Republic, and the magnetic radiance of Budapest, Hungary to the biblical sights of Jordan in the Middle East.
Each year, his artwork can be seen at many of America's top Western Art shows, the most prominent of them being the Prix de West exhibition at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, the Masters of the American West show, and Quest for the West, hosted by the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis, Indiana. Walters has received great acclaim at these exhibitions, bringing home more than a dozen awards over the past decade.
Most notable is his exceptional run at Prix de West. In 1998, his very first year, Walters was honored with the Nona Jean Hulsey Buyers' Choice Award; in 2002 he received a second. Then, in 2004 and 2005, the artist took home the Frederic Remington Award twice, a feat never before accomplished in the art show's 34 year history. The following year at the Cowboy Museum was quiet, but in 2007, Walters was elated with a double win: his third Buyers' Choice Award as well as the highly coveted Prix de West Purchase Award for "Spring's Caprice," which now hangs in the museum's permanent collection alongside another of his efforts, "Snow Flurries Over the Rim."
Later that same year, Walters was again double-honored, this time at the Eiteljojrg Museum's Quest for the West expo, where he won the Victor Higgins Award of Distinction and the Patron's Choice Award. In 2006, he was awarded with the Best Overall Presentation, and in 2008, Walters was awarded the top honor, Artist of Distinction. This award came with a special 90-day, one-man show that coincided with the 2009 Quest, starting September 11, 2009. This retrospective will feature canvases from the past 18 years of Walters' career, focusing not only on his heavy presence in Southwestern Art, but also upon paintings from his worldwide travels.
Walters has also received Patrons' Choice Awards from Masters of the American West and the Artists of America show in Denver. He was chosen to paint the Grand Canyon for the 75th anniversary rededication ceremonies in 1994. In 2003, he was chosen to paint the Powell Award for Arizona's former Governor, Bruce Babbitt. And in 1987, the Nor Este Subdivision in Albuquerque, New Mexico, dubbed one of its streets Curt Walters Court, in recognition for his contributions to the Arts in the Land of Enchantment.
Original Curt Walters artwork can be found at the Trailside Galleries of Scottsdale, Arizona and Jackson, Wyoming, and at the Claggett/Rey Gallery in Vail, Colorado. His work is also collected among a number of public and private individuals and foundations, including the Forbes Magazine Galleries of New York and California, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, astronaut Frank Borman, Frank and Kathie Lee Gifford, and (of course) Grand Canyon National Park.