Out of the seventeen years that Ranchlands has been hosting an annual art exhibition, fine artist Jill Soukup (www.jillsoukup.com) has been involved for nearly fifteen. Jill credits her time at the Chico and Zapata with broadening her artistic scope through exposure to scenes of rural life, and her large-scale paintings of horses, bison, ranchers and western life have since received widespread recognition. As she told Ranch & Reata Magazine in 2015, “I’m a city girl who gets to dip her toes in the rural world and bring it back to the city and share that with others. That’s my part.”
It was 2003 and my first visit to Chico Basin Ranch. Janet and nine-year-old Julie were showing me around the ranch in truck. We came to a stop next to a herd of horses off in the adjacent pasture. Julie wanted her own ride. She promptly got out of the truck, headed for the herd, and hopped on her horse. Without saddle or bridle she took off. It was a longtime childhood dream of mine to do just that. I never fulfilled that dream, but I’ve been in awe of the Phillip family and Ranchlands ever since.
Little did I know it was also the beginning of an artistic journey in a whole new direction. At that time, my work’s subject matter consisted largely of city life, with architecture dominating most of my canvases. Suddenly, now that I had references to rural life, horses and cattle became a frequent topic.
In 2008 I was invited to show at the prestigious Coors Art Exhibition and Sale. This opened many more doors and propelled my work into the Western art world. Ever since, my work has primarily articulated the life and livestock of Ranchlands. Now after so many years and visits to Chico Basin Ranch and Zapata Ranch, I find that the connections with the land, animals, staff and Phillips family bring a new dimension and level of understanding to my work, thus encouraging me to dig even deeper to express the meaning this family and lifestyle represent to me.
Ranchlands seeks to broaden conversations about ranching and rural life by bringing the topic to different communities through diverse avenues. Our art programs are one way we expand the dialogue to include people outside of traditional ranching circles. Read more about Ranchlands’ art programs here and see the complete collection from the 2016 exhibition here.