Work of the Week: Steer Wrestling

Date: Jul 19, 2019

    This week's Work of the Week is Steer Wrestling by Martin Schatz (1911-1994). 

    Farming and ranching are synonymous with Alberta, so it's not surprising visual artists in our province have explored these economic endeavours in their creative work. This particular artwork is travelling the province in the TREX exhibition that puts Alberta's agriculture industry in the spotlight, Cattle Call, which was curated by Shane Golby and organized by the Art Gallery of Alberta for the Alberta Foundation for the Arts Travelling Exhibition (TREX) program. This exhibition focuses on cattle as they have been expressed by artists throughout Alberta.

    The AFA's TREX program strives to ensure every Albertan is provided with an opportunity to enjoy fully developed exhibitions in schools, libraries, health care centres and smaller rural institutions and galleries throughout the province. The TREX program assists in making both the AFA's extensive art collection and the work of contemporary Alberta artists available to Albertans.

    In 2018-2019, over 630,000 visitors at 178 venues around Alberta were able to enjoy works from the AFA collection thanks to the AFA’s TREX program. Learn more about the TREX program:

    About the Artist: Martin Schatz

    Martin Schatz and his wife, Mary, lived on a farm near Cowley, Alberta. Both Martin and Mary rode in the Chincana Rodeo; Martin even used to ride bucking horses and participated in barrel racing and pole bending. He bought the farm in 1951 and built all of the buildings himself.

    His career as an artist began around 1985, when he started making whirligigs for the yard to pass time in the winter. He built them in his basement, using simple carving tools, and materials found around the house, like bottle caps, leather scraps and leftover house paint. People started stopping and taking pictures, and soon after that, they started buying them. His rodeo scenes, for which he drew from his own experiences, are what he is best known for. He suffered cataracts in both eyes, and even lost sight in one eye, but continued to carve and produce pieces. When he tired of carving Canadian animals, he began to carve more exotic wildlife. If he had not seen one himself, he would find a picture and work from that. All of the pieces were favorites to Schatz.

    AFA Virtual Museum