Pittsburgh artists honored for their dream works

| Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, 8:36 p.m.

Two Pittsburgh-area artists have been honored for pieces they had long wanted to create.

John Buxton of Allison Park and Robert Griffing of Gibsonia were honored as 2013 award recipients for their work in “Quest of the West,” a Western art show and sale hosted by the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis.

Buxton's “A Secret Cache” won the Harrison Eiteljorg Purchase Award. Griffing's “Family” won the Patrons' Choice Award and the Henry Farny Award for best painting.

Both men felt inspired to paint their individual scenes for some time. Buxton's idea began to form in the late 1980s, while he was taking photos along the Cumberland River in Kentucky. He'd come across a waterfall that immediately inspired him, but a friend informed him another artist was painting the scene.

For years, photos of that waterfall remained in Buxton's files. He never did find out whether the other artist ever painted it, and, decades later, he decided to create his own scene in homage to that space. While “A Secret Cache,” an oil on linen, does not depict a waterfall, it does present a zigzag composition descending down a rock ledge. It shows a hidden cave where Native Americans would store their plunder. There is no strong light source.

“This would have been a secret place, so it's supposed to be a little bit mysterious,” Buxton says.

By winning the Purchase Award, Buxton's work is the one artwork in the Quest exhibit selected for the Eiteljorg Museum's permanent collection.

Griffing's piece is one of three long-house interiors he painted. The busy scene shows typical activity occurring in a late-18th-century Iroquois long-house — people cooking and eating, goods hanging on high shelves, a small fire blazing.

“It's something I've always wanted to do,” Griffing says of creating the piece. He'd always been fascinated with what it might be like to walk into one of those homes — a place of “a thousand sights, a thousand smells.”

This year's “Quest for the West” opening weekend was the highest-grossing sales event in the Eiteljorg Museum's history, bringing in more than $1.2 million. Proceeds from the event, which attracts hundreds of Western-art enthusiasts nationwide, will go toward operations and building the Eiteljorg's world-class collection.

Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948.

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