BIG HORN — Local artist Joel Ostlind didn’t set out to have his work seen around the state for a political campaign. But when a friend asked a favor, Ostlind obliged.
That friend, Wyoming Treasurer Mark Gordon, is now one of the top candidates for governor in this fall’s election. The Gordons and Ostlinds have been friends for more than 30 years, dating back to their ranching days.
Gordon has been using a version of Ostlind’s artwork as his campaign logo since 2008. Gordon first saw the picture at an art show in Sheridan around 2000.
“It was a piece of artwork I bought my wife and always admired,” Gordon said. “It caught the image of a working cowboy looking forward.”
The original black and white monoprint, which Ostlind created in the early 1990s, features a cowboy hunched ahead on a horse with a lasso in hand and some of the rope trailing behind. It is one of Ostlind’s numerous prints based on western, ranching life.
Gordon suggested the artwork because it represented the history of Wyoming ranchers. He modified it for his political campaign to include the upper portion of the horse and cowboy without the lasso. Ostlind said the campaign team did a nice job taking his original, complex print and turning it into an easily identifiable western image.
“It’s gone through a couple of permutations,” Gordon said. “I remember asking Joel way back when — and, you know, he’s just such a nice guy — I said, ‘Joel, would you mind? I’d like to have a Wyoming artist on our campaign logo.’ And he said, ‘That’d be fine, go ahead and use it.’”
The men made a gentlemen’s agreement for Gordon to use a version of the image, something Gordon said also typifies Wyoming lifestyle.
Many people around the state are familiar with the logo, even if they don’t realize the inspiration for it. Ostlind said it has been pretty cool to see a version of his artwork around the state, especially on a billboard near Kaycee, where Gordon grew up.
“It was always fun to be driving around Wyoming and seeing an interpretation of my etching along the highway,” Ostlind said.
“I’m always proud to have that on my car,” Gordon said. “It reminds me so much of Wyoming … That’s rodeo, and Wyoming is about work and the place we live and things we love to do. That’s kind of what that logo means to me.”
Although the logo has worked out, Ostlind hasn’t used any of his other art for political campaigns.
“I don’t really think of myself as a commercial graphic artist,” Ostlind said.
Ostlinds’ work has been viewed thousands and thousands of times. Wyoming citizens who visit Gordon’s website or watch his campaign videos and speeches have most likely seen the white silhouette of a cowboy and horse contrasted against the blue background.
But Ostlind didn’t lend his work to Gordon for the attention it could bring; he was simply helping a friend.