A special exhibition of the art of Walt LaRue, a cowboy legend who captured the spirit of the West with his pen on paper, canvas, newspapers, dinner plates and pretty much any flat surface, will be on display during the month of April at OutWest Western Boutique and Cultural Center in downtown Newhall.
The opening reception, scheduled from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, will feature highlights of his life and times with original illustration, artwork, rodeo programs and select personal items. Available for purchase will be some of Walt’s work – a limited number of signed and unsigned prints, his book “Rodeo Cartoons from the Buckboard” and CDs of his music.
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LaRue, born in 1918, developed a love for horses in his youth as a guide in Glacier National Park and perfected his bareback skills and horsemanship as a rodeo cowboy during the 1940s and 1950s. He belonged to the Cowboy's Turtle Association, the Rodeo Cowboy's Association and was a Gold Card member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboy's Association.
He followed the shows from Salinas, California to Madison Square Garden, rode bulls and bareback broncs, was a good hand and could make his living going down the road.
During his time in the rodeo, Walt had the opportunity to work in the movies and became a stuntman working at both for a long time. When he wasn't robbing trains, chasing buffalo, or fighting the rustlers in the movies, he was going to the rodeos.
In the mid 1950s, after riding the wild ones for a long time, he hung up his gear and bid the rodeos goodbye. He stayed with his movie career, although his stunts became tamer. He received several awards including the 2007 Golden Boot, a Lifetime Membership in the Stuntmen's Association, and the 2004 America Cowboy Culture Award for All Around Cowboy Culture.
For many years, as an avocation, Walt was a freelance artist. He started drawing as a kid and continued doing it all his life. He drew cartoons for newspapers, magazines, and advertising agencies, for eight years he drew all the covers for the Rodeo Cowboy's Magazine, "The Buckboard." Weber's Bread and Levi Strauss were among his advertising accounts. He also illustrated books and for the last 20 years of his life he created fine art.
His paintings, all Westerns, are now in private collections, galleries, and museums all over the world. Successful as this was, he still called the art work a "side line" and shared it with his many other interests.
Walt always said he was a "lucky man" --and he did the things he wanted to do. He died June 12, 2010 in Los Angeles.
Refreshments for the reception will be provided by El Trocadero Steakhouse, Pulchella Winery and Newhall Ice. Guests will be entertained by "Western State of Mind" featuring musicians John Bergstrom and John Nelson.
OutWest is located at 24265 Main Street in Old Town Newhall; follow OutWest on facebook or at www.scvoutwest.com .