Barking at a Knot: Trying the Impossible, Yee-Haw!

There are few subjects in American history that can fire the imagination as much as the mystery, adventure, and mythology associated with the American frontier. A romanticized and often misunderstood period of United States history, the Old West used a perfect vernacular for the dusty and gritty lifestyles of the region’s pioneers and outlaws. Known for his colorful expressions of ‘Hi’ and ‘Yee-Haw,’ the American cowboy was a master of slang, creating a unique dialect filled with rich imagery that reflected the natural terrain as well as their daily duties.

JoAnne Artman Gallery is proud to present Barking at a Knot: Trying the Impossible, Yee-Haw! Defined as “attempting the impossible”, the phrase “Barking at a Knot” captures the harshness and charm of the era. Exploring themes of nostalgia, exploitation, appropriation and progress, artists America Martin, Billy Schenck and Greg Miller demonstrate the heritage and unwavering cultural fascination for Indigenous North America and the West American.

Schenck1, 12/14/21, 11:08, 8C, 7640×9705 (137+525), 100%, Repro 2.2 v2, 1/15 sec, R85.8, G60.3, B75.9

America Martin is inspired by her Colombian heritage and the natural world. His work frequently features the human figure depicted in relation to nature, with animals and plants being used analogously to personality traits. Martin works in a variety of media including painting, drawing, printmaking and sculpture, but his unique use of line and representation of form is remarkable in all mediums. Greedy and generous brushstrokes, thick layers of paint and bold use of line are the signatures of his work, with great attention paid to composition. Martin often treats figure and background with equal importance. His series of Native American portraits are included in the exhibition; blending indigenous motifs with his signature style and presenting depictions of the human form as solid, grounded and in harmony with his environment and spirit.

Billy Schenck uses specific frames of reference in his oil-on-canvas depictions of the American West, making visual connections between notable moments in American and cinematic history, as well as the history of visual modes of production. Striking contrasts, use of pattern, vivid hues, and a pop sensibility imbue the work with a contemporary flair, while embracing some of the Hollywood film industry’s most popular tropes. Frequent motifs in Schenck’s work include heroes, villains, the seductive femme fatale, as well as seductive images of Native American characters, often juxtaposed with subversive text or winking acquiescence via symbols or visual motifs. Schenck draws his images from personal references as well as historical sources such as newspapers and other print media, linking his personal accounts to those who came before him.

AMERICA MARTIN Man with Bolo Tie and Scarf Pastel + Ink on Cotton Paper 30 x 22.25 inches
AMERICA MARTIN Man with Bolo Tie and Scarf Pastel + Ink on Cotton Paper 30 x 22.25 inches

Greg Miller’s approach to mixed media links the history of Pop Art, the processes of collage and assemblage as well as the concepts of urban decay and collective memory. Using collected paper ephemera, Miller draws on his urban California roots to create tangible, evocative visual narratives through his compositions through both image and text, with moments of poetic juxtaposition and historical allusion. Often using historical texts, illustrations, journals and photographs as a basis, Miller complements works with elements of typography as well as painted form resulting in visual landscapes of great narrative depth. Miller’s unique brand of Americana celebrates and notes our ties to iconic images that transcend the conventions of the passage of time.

The work of these artists will inspire, provoke, engage and hypnotize. With ever-changing visual perceptions, peek behind the stories being told and you’re sure to find the right artistic expression.

Joanne Artman Gallerypresent :


September 1stst2022 – October 31st2022

@ 346 N Coast Highway. Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Joanne Artman Gallery

The galleries are open by appointment
326 + 346 N Coast Highway | Laguna Beach, CA 92651

511A West 22n/a Street | New York, NY 10011


About Margaret L. Portillo

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