For All Fine Art Collectors
C yrus A fsAr y
Country Life, oil, 16˝ by 20˝ “I relive the experiences of the various rural scenes whenever I pick up my brush to paint. Using my sketch and photos as a guide, my thoughts are back driving through this landscape, having the freedom to stop at leisure and, because there is no traffic, to simply enjoy the wonders of this world.”
The Passion Continues By Vicki Stavig
small boy of 7, with curly dark hair, bright brown eyes, and a serious expression, walks home from school, looking at shop windows, as he passes. A movement in one of those windows catches his eye, and he stops, when he sees an artist on the other side of it. The boy is mesmerized, as he watches the artist mix colors and move his paintbrush across the canvas. Slowly, a mountain appears. The wonder of seeing that painting evolve stays
with the boy and creates in him a desire to create similar scenes—and evoke similar responses. That boy was Cyrus Afsary, who has since earned countless honors for his paintings, including awards from the Academy of Western Art, Oil Painters of America, the C. M. Russell Museum, and most recently Best of Show at the Collectors’ Reserve Show at the Gilcrease Museum. He also has exhibited his work at several prestigious venues, including
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the Masters of the American West Show at the Autry National Center in Los Angeles, California. The road to those honors and shows, however, would take many years and span thousands of miles. By the time he was 13, Afsary, who grew up in the Middle East, was painting in oils, but by then he already had been making money with his art for four years by completing art assignments for some of his classmates. His father had
Mission, oil, 12˝ by 16˝ “The mission, with the many arches and so many wonderful areas to explore, causes wonder and a sense of history, and a sad question comes to my mind: Why is the San Juan Capistrano Mission not well conserved for many future generations? It is slowly crumbling away.”
become ill with a heart condition and could no longer work, so the money young Afsary made, little as it was, helped to support the family. When he was 15, Afsary enrolled at the Conservatorium of Art. At about the same time, he and a friend began to visit nearby tribes on the outskirts of the city, where they enjoyed watching the musicians and dancers and wandering through merchants’ stalls. Those sights provided the budding artist with fodder for sketches and created a desire to capture the lives of those people and to convey their feelings and the daily challenges they faced. By the time he was in his late teens, Afsary was selling his paintings from a gallery that was frequented by tourists from throughout the world.
“My friend worked at the gallery, and he recommended my work to the owner, who contacted me and added my paintings to his gallery,” he says. “I enjoyed painting the tribal characters and also landscapes.” With those sales, the young artist now had a steady income that allowed him to help support his family—his father had died when Afsary was 16—and to pay his university and personal expenses. Afsary continued to travel beyond the city, visiting nearby rural areas, where he painted the people and the land. Those paintings made such an impression on the collectors who purchased them that, even during the past decade, they contact Afsary and ask for more information on the subjects he captured in them.
Academically, Afsary was influenced by Russian and European masters. “They were my inspiration, because of their technical ability, their methods of rendering the subjects, and their understanding of their art,” he says. On another level, however, Afsary was influenced by the American cowboy, who rode the wide-open ranges half a world away and who was featured in movies that he and his friends often watched. Little did Afsary know that one day he would live in America’s Southwest and paint the people and scenes that had captivated him on film. “I always enjoyed the Western movies, the Wild West, and especially movies featuring John Wayne and Lee Marvin, the open landscapes, and
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Spring Pasture, oil, 20˝ by 24˝ “The snow-capped mountains are like a frame that surrounds a painting. It is my way of appreciating the wonders of these special places, hosting a variety of animals, forests, pastures, creeks, and waterways flowing with the snow melt.”
the tribal Native American,” he says. After earning degrees in liberal arts and interior design, Afsary served a required stint in the military. By then, he says, the Middle East “had become suffocating for an artist,” and several of his friends had moved to others parts of the world. Opposite Page - Craftsman, oil, 20˝ by 16˝ “The Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, holds Native American celebrations at different times of the year, which offer an opportunity for me to observe the techniques and also take more photos of the artists, such as this man, who is painstakingly decorating his vessel, not at all concerned with the interested observers.”
Afsary’s parents were both deceased by then, and he had fulfilled his commitment to his family, so he packed his bags, his paints, brushes, and a few small canvases and headed to America, where he stayed with a friend in Las Vegas, Nevada. Afsary hit the ground running, showing his paintings to the folks at the Grand Gallery at the MGM Grand Hotel and was immediately hired on as the resident artist. That position included painting some of the celebrities he had seen and admired in the movies, including Sylvester Stallone, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and John Wayne.
Afsary would do a quick color sketch of his subject, recording the skin tone, eye and hair color, and other notable colors and points of interest, then take photographs as a reference and use them all while working on the painting. Not unlike his younger days in the Middle East, Afsary also would often head to the countryside beyond the city and, whenever time allowed, would travel to various parts of the West, attending powwows and experiencing the culture and brilliantly colored costumes, as well as the art, associated with Native American tribes. He also visited the missions
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Late Spring, oil, 20˝ by 30˝ “There are times, when you simply must stop the car and allow your senses to absorb the scene, such as this one in the Northwest, with the snow-capped mountains surrounding this expansive and lush pastoral area. My camera is always handy and sometimes, when I want to linger, I will sketch the view.”
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in California, drawn specifically to San Juan Capistrano, which has become a favored subject. “I have always been fascinated by arches, and the historic architecture of the missions was an added draw,” Afsary says. “I derived inspiration from the scenes, even if some area was in need of conservation. There are so many exceptional examples of arches in buildings in different parts of the world, and the San Juan Capistrano Mission is a special example of one in the West.” As he traveled and painted, Afsary’s style evolved, showcasing his technical ability with light and his proficiency in the use of color, and his work captured the attention of the many collectors who visited the Grand Gallery. Tragedy struck in November 1980, however, when the MGM Grand burned, the flames taking with them most of Afsary’s paintings and sketches and leaving him without a job. It was a valuable lesson of sorts, as he realized it was unwise to depend solely on one gallery to market his work. Not surprisingly, other galleries were more than happy to represent the talented artist. In 1988, Afsary left Las Vegas behind. “I decided to move to Arizona, because of the growing art market and the developing artist community,” he says. “It was also the hub of Western art.” Today, working in his studio there, he often becomes so absorbed in his work that, especially when preparing for a show, he doesn’t communicate with anyone for a few days. January/February 2015• ART of the WEST 33
Homestead, oil, 9˝ by 12˝ “A small farm, with animals grazing, catches my attention on this trip out beyond any city I might be visiting at any given time. Being able to enjoy the countryside, I’m always collecting images, and my senses experience the aromas of the seasons.”
Painting subjects that range from landscapes, portraits, and figures to still lifes, wildlife, cowboys, and Native Americans, he is proficient in many mediums but prefers oils. “Oil painting is a medium that is forgiving,” Afsary says. “It is easily corrected, if something needs to be corrected or changed. This is not always possible when using watercolor.” When Afsar y picks up his brush, he transcends the qualitative use of his colors, and his brushwork is masterly. He becomes totally absorbed in what he is creating, attempting to convey the depth of his feeling for the subject. “I experience many moods and many feelings,” he says. “Some days
ever ything goes easily, and I’m happy and pleased with the progress. Other times, the success of what I am striving to achieve is challenging, and I put the brush down and rest for awhile before reviewing and considering the next step.” Afsary’s success in meeting those challenges is apparent in the many awards he has earned for his work, including Best of Show from the Eiteljorg Museum in 2007, the Staff Choice Award from the Charles Russell Museum in 2009, and the Williams Award for Collectors Reserve from the Gilcrease Museum in 2010. He is a member of the Cowboy Hall of Fame and the
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Northwest Rendezvous Group. There is more to Afsary than his art however. He has three children: James, Bonnie and Jacqui and two grandchildren McKenna and Keaton. But, like most professionals, he is best known for his art. Afsary’s paintings have found homes with art lovers throughout the world, collectors who place great value on his work. That little boy, who was so fascinated by the artist he watched at work in the shop window so many years ago, has clearly mastered his craft. Vicki Stavig is editor of Art of the West.