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Mountain Trails Gallery

Mountain Trails Gallery is nestled in Tlaquepaque, one of the most picturesque shopping venues in the Southwest. The art in this gallery is an alluring variety of realistic bronze sculptures and paintings that have attracted visitors for almost three decades. People love the realism of this gallery. Those more traditional in their artistic tastes, come in breathing a sigh of relief to identify art they can relate to without having to work at interpretation.

Ken Payne, deceased bronze sculptor and the original founder, opened this gallery in 1991 in a small suite at the back of the complex he shared with a jeweler. He later moved the gallery to its present location upstairs in Tlaquepaque; offering traditional, story telling, and historically based, working cowboy, Native American portraiture, and wildlife art.

The gallery features ‘Cowboy Artists of America’ like the late Ray Swanson and Navajo/Ute Oreland Joe. Ray Swanson, was an actual working cowboy. Bronze sculptors Scott Rogers and Michael Trcic are known for their colorful portrayals of people and wildlife of the West. Trcic focuses much of his talent on accurate anatomy to bring his characters to life. However, it’s the legacy of Ken Payne, his son Vic Payne, and grandson Dustin Payne, who are really the quintessential artists that best describe what this gallery has been known for, and still is today.

Another stalwart pillar of the gallery and the community is Susan Kilewer, a painter since the age of ten, who turned to sculpting in 1987. She has created over 200 pieces and is an icon of Sedona with monuments at the library, in uptown, and at the heritage center. This artist creates beautiful bronze sculptures with amazing detail; displaying an understanding and respect for both Native American culture and cowboy history.

And then there’s Vicky Catapano. She’s becoming one of the “West’s most collectable realists,” with her innocent and fresh portraits of Native American children. Her sensitivity sets her apart in capturing the inner spirits of her subjects.

Over time, Mountain Trails has brought in a little more color, contemporary edge, and different styles into the gallery. Showcased are artists like Troy Collins, with his big, colorful aspen landscapes, florals, and lily pond paintings; Betty Carr, known for her skillful use of the influence of light, in vibrant paintings from her world travels; and Amy Lay, whose dynamic animals show her love and fascination for them. With over 48 artists, young and old represented in this gallery, the variety of styles, subject matter, and techniques welcome international art lovers of many tastes.

The quality of art here is very high. These artists are not only talented in their skill base, but they put time and effort into researching what they do. If it’s a bronze, the detailing on the saddle, the beading, the kind of feathers, anatomy, as well as the history, is accurate. The same is true in the Native American pots, concho belts, wildlife, everything… This translates not just into sculpture but also into paintings. The work speaks because the people who create the art have done the research. The art is beautiful because these artists have either lived in the world they are depicting, spent time with their subjects, or hiked to these beautiful places and painted small plein air paintings, then returned to their studios to create larger masterpieces.

Lisa Danielle has a fascinating story with her gorgeous Native American pots. She found an antiquity in her aunt’s attic. It turned something on in her. So she went to museums and asked if the curator could remove the glass, so she could photograph every detail of pieces she was interested in. Her paintings are so accurate that people feel like you can touch them.

Wildlife artists in this gallery have a love and passion for nature, the land, and the animals they grew up with. They’ve spent decades drawing their subjects, riding or breaking horses, or spending time surrounded by livestock and wildlife. And that’s what they bring to their artwork. Bryce Pettit, Sarah Phippen, Joe Garcia and Adele Earnshaw love to watch wildlife, horses, birds, and domestic animals. That’s why they do such beautiful realistic bronze sculptures and paintings.

Julie Williams became the new owner of Mountain Trails Gallery last winter after spending 25 years working there. She loves being a voice for these wonderful artists. She and her staff feel, “They have the privilege of knowing all these things about their artists and they get to share them.” She runs the gallery on personal and artistic integrity. If she says the artist is capturing something, you can trust in its quality and accuracy. Some of the bronze artists have been with them for 25 years…and some of the painters for well over a decade and a half.

Williams’s way of bringing art to the next generation is both creative and fun. Welcoming children with their parents into the gallery; she may ask them to find the sleeping deer, or the little bunny. There are rules… you can’t pull anything down, but if they will hold her finger they can explore the art together. Parents thank her as she teaches kids to appreciate art. “If you don’t teach kids this stuff can be part of their lives it won’t be,” she says. “This should be part of all our lives. This is art, and it makes your life rich and full and colorful, and you feel good when you look at it.” She wants little kids to know this, and parents to know they don’t have to tiptoe around the gallery and be afraid.

Mountain Trails Gallery is one of the last truly representational galleries in Sedona. “They’ve been the same spotted leopard all along. They haven’t tried to jump on a different horse in the race and be something that they’re not. And they’ve survived lean times because of this,” says Williams.

The gallery staff care about the people they interact with and have learned how to listen… To understand that personal experiences weave into people’s artistic tastes. What better way to be introduced to collecting art, than to go to a gallery that really cares about its clients? Mountain Trails clients have been coming back for generations…to purchase, to visit, and to ask for advice on selling their parents legacy.

Story written by Patti Polinard | Photos provided by Mountain Trails Gallery

For more information on the Mountain Trails Gallery, visit: www.mountaintrailssedona.com

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