Gene Zesch, b. (United States)
Gene Zesch was born during the Great Depression, raised on a family ranch, and tried making a living on the land during the worst recorded drought in Texas history. On a leave from army pilot’s school in 1954, Gene and his wife Patsy saw an artist in Santa Fe working on a woodcarving of Dwight Eisenhower. Gene told Patsy, “I think I can do that.” After that trip, he started carving humorous figures of cowboys and camp cooks in his spare time.
At first, Gene created a few Old West pieces, but he soon realized that his true subject matter was the hardships facing the small-time working rancher of his generation. He has always managed to find the humor in their predicaments. “Cowboys need a sense of humor,” he points out. “Without laughter, they would hang up their saddles for good.”
Throughout his career as an artist, Gene has ranched in Durango, Mexico and continues to play an active role in running his grandparents’ ranch in the Hill Country of Texas. No doubt that experience inspired the title of one of his pieces: “If someone gave me a million dollars, I’d just keep right on ranching till it was all gone.” Zesch has been featured in one-man shows at both the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and the Texan Cultures Museum, both of which hold the record as being the best attended shows in the history of the Museums. Zesch’s work has been exhibited in 16 museums including two at the Smithsonian Institute.