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Contemporary art in the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art? That and more.

James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art in St. Petersburg. PATTY YABLONSKI | TIMES
Published May 3, 2018

ST. PETERSBURG

You may think you know what to expect from the new James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art: traditional paintings and large scale bronze sculptures of cowboys and Native Americans. And you're right, but only partly.

The museum, a passion project of Raymond James chairman emeritus Tom James and his wife, Mary, celebrated its grand opening last weekend. It contains 400 works from the philanthropist couple's collection, which numbers in the thousands. The building itself is a work of art, with sandstone, copper, a black granite waterfall and other touches meant to evoke the West.

The collection is rich with powerful examples of traditional works, jewelry, stunning Western landscapes and representations of majestic wildlife. That said, there's also a whole world of contemporary artworks inspired by modern artistic movements, including pop art. Many of these works are by Native American artists.

Here are 10 surprising pieces we found inside the James Museum.

Dan Namingha

Passage III, 1999

The triptych's placement at the entrance to the museum's galleries is the first sign of the breadth of works in the collection. Namingha is from the Tewa-Hopi tribe and uses the symbols of his ancestry in his work.

Tony Abeyta

Stream, 2008

Using charcoal and ink wash on paper, Abeyta, who is Navajo, turns an enlarged microscopic view of a flowing stream into a cubist meditation on nature. It's part of his Underworlderness series, inspired by the Navajo belief that there are four worlds underneath us. Also keep an eye out for his Untitled oil on canvas nearby.

Fritz Scholder

American-Luiseno, Cherokee, 1975

Scholder's bold portraits of Native Americans earned him critical acclaim on the world stage. Taking a pop art approach to using unexpected colors, his work became controversial, especially among Native Americans. Scholder, who was Native American, aimed to confront the stereotypes perpetuated in pop culture and Hollywood. Look for his other piece Buffalo Dancer.

Shonto Begay

Trouble on Highway 160 … Again, 1997

The Navajo artist puts himself in a car with Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. They've been pulled over, and a cop is approaching. The tiny brush strokes create a movement that feels alive and electric

Preston Singletary

Family Story Totem, 2011

This totem created by a Tlingit artist is the only artwork from the Pacific Northwest, but there's a spot in the museum reserved for more. Originally carved in wood, this iteration was cast in bronze, but Singletary has also cast it in glass.

Ed Mell

High Desert Clouds, 2013

Mell achieved this Southwestern landscape painting after taking aerial photographs from a helicopter ride. You'd think you were looking at a piece from the cubist movement of the early 20th century given the angular shapes. Mell uses those sharp angles in his wonderful bronze sculpture, Jack Knife, on display in the museum's lobby.e_SClBJohn Nieto

Coors Is the One, 1988

Nieto, who is of Hispanic and Native American descent, is known for his bold color palette and familiar subject matter. His style is inspired by the fauvist techniques of using vivid, unexpected colors and bold outlines. This piece hangs next to Andy Warhol's Mother and Child screen print.

Billy Schenck

King George, 1980

This painting is from a series that Schenck created poking fun at nouveau-riche urban cowboys with their Cadillacs. You can almost hear him say, "All right, all right, all right."

Paul Van Ginkel

Moving On, 2003

The perspective and brush strokes take this work outside the realm of typical wildlife paintings.

James Michaels

The Bold and the Beautiful, Western Heritage Series #3, 2000

One of several local or Florida artists with works in the collection, Michaels hails from Palm Harbor. Using a combination of kitschy Western iconography with historical paintings and objects, this pop art piece pays homage to the women of the West, known for their independence and moxie.

Contact Maggie Duffy at mduffy@tampabay.com.

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