Fine Art Bronzes and Paintings

The Sculptor Is Also a Colt Whisperer

Brett Badgett (in the black cowboy hat) makes his way around the city during a visit from Montana prior to the opening of his show at the Amsterdam Whitney Gallery in Chelsea.
By Ralph Gardner Jr. for the Wall Street Journal.  Photos by Mustafah Abdulaziz

Cowboys are not a common sight in New York—at least not the fully clothed variety—but there a bunch of them were last week, on Sixth Avenue and 48th Street, chatting up a mounted policewoman.

“Everything we see here is pretty fascinating to us,” admitted Wallace Badgett. Mr. Badgett was wearing a white cowboy hat while his son, Brett, who seemed to be leading the discussion with the policewoman, was wearing a black hat, though he would later explain that no dark meaning should be attached to the shade; it was just personal preference.

Turns out their group was in town from Montana to attend Brett’s opening at the Amsterdam Whitney Gallery in Chelsea. He’s a sculptor as well as a cowboy. And as one might expect (and perhaps be relieved to hear), the younger Mr. Badgett doesn’t work in formaldehyde or dung (though there’s quite a bit of that where he comes from). Using bronze, he does figures of men saddling horses that recall Frederick Remington and bear titles such as “Morning Ritual” and “Horse Breakers Nightmare.”

“The ranch kind of sponsored the trip out here,” the senior Mr. Badgett said as the policewoman rode off into the sunset, or at least the heat and humidity of Avenue of the Americas at midday. He meant the Copper Spring Ranch in Bozeman, Mont., where they raise rodeo horses and where the younger Mr. Badgett, I take it, is considered something of a colt whisperer.

Indeed, the reason he was trading notes with that mounted policewoman is that he was trying to track down a couple of cops whose police horses he’d help train at a mounted NYPD horsemanship clinic in New York a couple of years ago.

“I haven’t worked with her before, but she knows the guys we did work with,” Brett said as he laughed with delight and amazement.

“He’s not big on himself, but he’s an amazing hand with a colt,” said Sandie Metcalf, the ranch manager, as Brett laughed some more—a joyous laugh that seemed to encompass every skyscraper in sight, all the passing men in suits on their BlackBerrys and women in heels and short skirts; the traffic, the stores, the crazy miracle of life in New York City.

“We’re out here for the art show,” Brett explained. “Man, it’s a small world.

“We were starting colts, doing the horsemanship clinics,” he went on, of his NYPD star turn. “They were mainly interested in getting their horses sacked out.”

“Want to explain what sacked out means?” Ms. Metcalf said.

“Getting them used to being around flapping flags and people,” Mr. Badgett complied. “So they’re not scared of things.”

“When we saw these Wall Street boys in their suits,” Ms. Metcalf added, “we had to line these boys up with them.”

Horsemanship apparently runs in the family. Wallace Badgett was an accomplished rodeo cowboy, a college champion who went to the national finals.

“That’s as high as you can go in the rodeo world,” Ms. Metcalf noted.

Also along on the trip and wearing a white cowboy hat, too, was Gary Metcalf, Ms. Metcalf’s husband, who’s apparently no slouch on the rodeo circuit himself. Saddle broncs were his specialty. “He gets up kinda slow,” Ms. Metcalf acknowledged. “It takes him a while to get completely straight up.”

The group had the opening at the Amsterdam Whitney Gallery that night. They were scheduled to see “Jersey Boys” the following night. They had their picture taken with Pamela Bond, the mounted cop who gave them a handsome triangular “Mounted NYCPD” patch, and also with “some real sharp suits,” as Mr. Metcalf put it.

He was referring to businessmen of the type common to Avenue of the Americas, but that might constitute something of a rarity if your frame of reference is quarter horses and Big Sky country. 

“They were good sports,” Mr. Metcalf attested. “We invited them out. Didn’t we, Sandie?”

“They probably think we’re just as weird,” Brett said. “So we fit in.”

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