Painting: The Last Frontiersman

Fewer and fewer Americans, about one out of three, live in the great outdoors now celebrated almost entirely in never-ever television westerns. In a curious miracle of abandonment, Americans have become strangers in a landscape that they believe has built their national character. But not all. North of Alamogordo and east of Tularosa, south of Hondo and only six miles crow flight from an Apache reservation—in the dusty desolation of New Mexico—Artist Peter Kurd works in a perpetual state of wonderment.

A native regional realist of the Southwest, equally prized by Lyndon B. Johnson and Barry Goldwater, Kurd,...