Born in Montana, David Rathman is no cowboy, though he was a good high school wrestler.
However, his prints and paintings often portray what might be considered "the manly life"—riding the range, tackling an opponent, delivering a knockout in the boxing ring, driving a tank or a demolition derby car.
"I'm . . . interested in interior conflict and testing," he told an interviewer in 2010. "I always circle around this boy/man stuff: hubris and testosterone, vulnerability, fear, and winning and losing." Rathman helps to depict this conflict through his materials, including unlikely and unexpected watercolor, or esoteric etching strategies. In addition, he often deploys words against the icons: "People talk about my drinking, never my thirst," paired with cowboys on a range. Or, "In quiet rooms young girls are writing poetry," matched with images of war.
Rathman has received increasing attention for these delicate-yet-incisive observations. His images come indirectly from pop culture, because he sketches the cowboys, tanks, boxers, etc. from freeze-framed videos of old movies or YouTube clips. As he put it in a 2011 interview, old Westerns are "Shakespearean and biblical." In tapping our shallowest memories of manliness he finds deeper, more disturbing revelations.