Article and Photos by David Borlaug
“Now that’s an artist who knows horses!”
That’s a common reaction when visitors to The Capital Gallery in downtown Bismarck see Manning, North Dakota artist Kaye Burian’s oil paintings on display.
And for good reason. Born and raised on a western North Dakota ranch and operating with her husband and family the Lazy 77 Ranch west of Manning, Kaye need only walk outside their classic ranch home to view her subjects. From mane to tail, she knows how every horse’s strands of hair rest or rustle in the wind. Looking intently into the eyes of her equine subjects, you enter the soul of these majestic beauties.
But horses are not Kaye’s only artistic interest. Her badlands and plains landscapes; ranch hands; cattle and other denizens of the West invade any gallery she fills. Her work has been shown and appreciated in Arizona, California, Montana, and Wyoming, and now, for the first time is on display in The Capital Gallery.
Kaye says her interest in art goes back as long as she can remember and that “you draw and paint the things you find around you, and I had plenty of subjects, growing up in ranch country.”
Her drawings of horses, cattle, and landscapes caught the attention of a high school instructor who encouraged her to pursue art, and she later majored in art at Dickinson State University. Following graduation she and her husband both taught at Mott High School, and after six years, purchased their present ranch west of Manning.
Her earliest influences continue to reveal themselves in her work today: Charles Russell and George Remington. Her “Oh, About 30 Hundredths,” with two seasoned ranchers conversing from their sorrel and buckskin horses; and “A Sure Sign of Spring,” capturing the charm of a newborn Black Baldy come from both a talented hand and Dakota heart.
Scores of rodeo trophies in her home attest to the family’s roots, embedded in a western lifestyle carved out of the rugged badlands around them. And all along the way, Kaye fulfilled more than her share of duties, helping manage a Hereford and later black and red angus cattle operation while raising two sons and increasing her artistic skills by painting all that she was experiencing first hand.
Her work has been recognized and honored throughout the American West including participation in Cheyenne Frontier Days Western Art Show and Sale along with the American Quarter Horse Association’s “America’s Horse in Art,” which awarded her its Steel Dust Award for Best of Show in Amarillo, Texas. Her work has graced the cover of national horse magazines and hangs in prestigious homes throughout the United States.
Kaye’s paintings are part of the current exhibition “Dakota Perspectives,” at The Capital Gallery, which also includes two Nigerian artists and their contrasting views of the Dakota people and landscape. The gallery is open Monday through Saturday. For more info, call 751-1698 or go to TheCapitalGallery.com.
David Borlaug is president of the Lewis & Clark Fort Mandan Foundation and director of The Capital Gallery in downtown Bismarck, owned and operated by the foundation.