The art of rodeo on display in poster unveiling


Last updated 4/18/2023 at 6:16pm

Photo by Bill Bartlett

Wild Horse Race cowboy J.E. Florendo and poster artist Dyrk Godby unveiled the 2023 Sisters Rodeo poster at a gathering at Dixie's on Friday, March 31.

Dixie's on East Cascade Avenue turned into an art gallery of sorts on Friday, March 31, as dozens of Sisters Rodeo dignitaries and guests crowded into the store for the unveiling of the 2023 Sisters Rodeo poster.

These posters have become collector's items over the years, and are eagerly awaited as the official start of rodeo season.

While sipping champagne and recalling prior posters and rodeos, enthusiasts mingled with the 2023 Rodeo Queen Sadie Bateman. She's described as a genuine "cowgirl at heart," starting her rodeo career at the age of 10 with the Northwest Youth Rodeo Association competing in barrel racing, pole bending, breakaway and team roping. Bateman was the 2019 Oregon State Champion Breakaway Roper. She's currently competing in the Northwest Professional Rodeo Association.

Bateman's charm notwithstanding, the main attraction was poster artist Dyrk Godby. Most folks don't imagine rough and tumble cowboys having the temperament or delicate touch associated with painting. Godby grew up on a horse ranch in Idaho, ventured into the world of the rodeo circuit, nearly lost his leg to a bronc in the arena, and then spent some years as a musician who wrote and sang about stallions, fillies, and mustangs.

He came to Oregon at 14 hoping to be an Olympic boxer trained under a well-known Portland coach. He missed the 1976 Olympics due to not being old enough, and the 1980 Games in Russia were boycotted under orders from President Jimmy Carter.

His remarkable career included touring with Bob Hope's USO show and finding himself for a spell in the company of legends like Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings.

Godby's career in rodeo included rides in the St. Paul Rodeo and Pendleton Roundup among others. So when Godby picks up a brush to paint iconic western horses, he brings a depth of experience not matched by any other artist.

Closely connected with horses his entire life, he's a master at putting down on canvas a horse's anatomy. He is noted for his ability to render them lifelike by capturing their essence, especially in the eyes. His understanding of a horse's posture and expression are unique among equestrian artists, critics say.

This is Godby's fifth Sisters Rodeo poster. Each year's poster depicts a different event or aspect of rodeo. Last year's poster was dedicated to breakaway ropers. For 2023 the subject is the wild horse race.

One of the first rodeo events and as Western as the word itself, the wild horse race started in the 1800's as a competition between ranch teams. From its roots as a race through town with only wagons as fences, the wild horse race is now a full-grown rodeo event. In today's wild horse races, true wild horses are no longer used. Instead, cowboys race ranch-raised horses.

Ten or more teams of three cowboys - each with their own job - saddle the horse and ride it across the finish line. During last year's Sisters Rodeo, fans gasped in fear as the race was held in a downpour on a soaked arena floor. Horses fell, one flipping over on its back.

Godby's depiction, shown here, is more typical of the entertaining event. He used acrylic, but works about half the time in oil, which he slightly prefers.

Several at Dixie's assumed that the poster graphics were also Godby's work or hand lettered. Not so. As in past collaborations, the painting became a poster under the skilled hands of Dennis Schmidling, whose career is every bit as interesting as Godby's.

He began as a contract journalist with Life Magazine, which enabled him to work with the likes of Ansel Adams. An accomplished photographer, he moved to the corporate world after Life published its last issue in 1972.

Thirty-five years later his journey brought him to Sisters where, with wife, Helen, he runs Sisters Gallery & Frame Shop. Above the gallery in his studio, Schmidling uses the highest of graphic arts technology as a master in the art of archiving and a highly regarded designer.

He artistically and compellingly adds type and elements to make a painting illustrated art, a poster. He works magic, you might say. Godby's painting, for example, did not have enough sky in the subject to carry the title art. Schmidling extended the sky by cloning.

In an earlier poster in which the horse was an Appaloosa, the Rodeo Board said "Appys" were too slow, and with some wizardry Schmidling changed it to a sorrel.

Both Godby, best known for his woodburned leather images, and Schmidling are products of their age, basically shy and unassuming, unfailingly polite - and consummate professionals.


Reader Comments(1)

EricMills writes:

ART? Please! Rodeo is condemned by every animal welfare organization in North America due to its inherent cruelty. Rodeo was outlawed in the United Kingdom back in 1934, followed by Germany and the Netherlands. Can the U.S. be far behind?


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