Thunder Horse Gallery Mission Statement:  

To promote and sell artwork that depicts the landscape and beauty of the Southwest as well as its people and their lifestyle and traditions, both past and present.  My goal is to show and provide artwork that not only excites me , but also inspires me as an artist, to create the best quality of work possible.
Our gallery will also seek to promote the visual arts in our community by contributing to educational efforts in the form of fine art appreciation, demonstrations and workshops.

—Rory Combs


As soon as local sculptor, Rory Combs and his wife Rita walked into the Adobe Plaza’s former Stove Store in early September, they knew they had found a home for their new venture.  It would take a lot of hard work to turn the space into the intimate and inviting art gallery they envisioned, but the adobe walls and original saltillo tile floors had the historic feeling they were looking for.  It was just the right size, and there was an area in back where Rory could spend his days turning blocks of clay into lifelike sculptures. Changing the space from “vision” to “reality” took a little over two months and friends who saw the space in its earliest stages marvel at the transformation in such a short period of time.  The couple admits, “it took a huge amount of elbow grease, wood putty, paint and long hours”, but they have turned an empty room into the grand Thunder Horse Gallery located at 200 Mechem Drive, Ruidoso.

The couple moved to Ruidoso in July 2009 after Rita’s retirement from the Federal Government in 2008.  Rory was  not quite ready to retire, but they were both ready to leave behind the Midwest winters of Illinois and Rory could continue his home based graphic design business anywhere.  They had read several articles about Ruidoso in “Where to Retire” magazine and thought it was worth checking out.  After several visits to the area, they knew they had found their new home, complete with warm and welcoming people and an art community that appreciated Rory’s work.  The couple now loves the small-town atmosphere and looks forward to sharing Rory’s (and the other artists’) work with friends and neighbors.  “In Ruidoso, we’re all neighbors”, says Rory.

Rory did retire from his graphic design business on May 31st of 2013 after being self-employed for over seventeen years.  He was looking forward to sculpting full time, but as things have turned out, he’s hardly had time at all for sculpting since retirement.   Within a few short weeks after closing his business, he was contacted by several local artists about being a part of a co-op gallery.  The group of artists began looking at rental spaces,  discussing potential names for the gallery and details of how their work would be displayed.  It didn’t take long to figure out that showcasing Rory’s work might not translate well with the ideas the other artists had for showcasing their work.   “And it just wasn’t fair to the other artists to want to do everything our way”, said Rita, “so from that point, it wasn’t much of a leap to make the decision to do this on our own”.  By the end of August, bringing Thunder Horse Gallery to life became their  focus. The couple went into this venture as a team; from remodeling their new-found space to staffing the gallery, it will be just the two of them. 

Rory sculpts his work in clay and has them cast in bronze.  He has been intrigued by Native American culture since childhood and marvels in their spirituality and wisdom.  Most of his work is drawn from historic photos of Native Americans taken by Edward Curtis, Richard Bell and L.A. Huffman.  However, some of his recent pieces were created after he participated in the 2011 Artist Ride held outside Wall, SD, where artists and models come together for a three-day photo shoot.  Artists, by invitation only,  can photograph, sketch or paint a variety of 19th century western models with authentic costumes, weapons, equipment and horses.  Models include many Native Americans from the nearby Pine Ridge Reservation.  “Most of the artists are painters” commented Rory, “but the Artist Ride offered a unique opportunity for me as a sculptor, because I was able to photograph models from all angles.  I shot enough reference material for at least a dozen pieces, including the one I’m working on currently”.

For the past four years, Rory’s work has been seen during the local studio tour.  The couple looked forward to opening up their home each year where his bronze sculptures were showcased.  Visitors were invited to see Rory’s studio and he enjoyed sharing the process of creating his sculptures in clay,  the molding and casting processes and finally, an  explanation  of the patina process which Rory recently began doing himself to achieve  greater control of the final product.   Rory looks forward to similar interaction with  gallery visitors who are interested in his seeing his current work in progress. 

Rory’s work has been in juried shows and exhibits such as the Phippen Western Art Show and Sale in Prescott, AZ,  Bosque Art Classic in Clifton, TX, Sculpture in the Hills Art Show in Hill City, SD, Mountain Oyster Club Show in Tucson, AZ and Loveland Invitational  and Sculpture in the Park shows in Loveland, CO.  His work can also be found at Dakota Nature and Art Gallery in Hill City, SD and Madaras Gallery in Tuscon AZ.

Thunder Horse Gallery includes a mix of local and regional artists to represent its western theme.  Local artists besides sculptor/owner Rory Combs (bronze sculptures) include  Carolyn Arcure (storybeads), Roy Brown (ceramics),  Rosemary Maupin (jewelry), Rollen Powell (exotic woods) and Summer Sarinova (glass).  Regional artists displaying work at Thunder Horse Gallery include JaNeil Anderson, Redrock, NM (oil), Matt Atkinson,  Colorado Springs, CO (oil), Mary Beagle, Las Cruces, NM (oil), Michael Holter, Plano, TX (oil and watercolors), and Deborah Rae Nelson, Santa Fe, NM (oil).

Thunder Horse Gallery opened for business on November 19th.   Fall/Winter gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11:00 a.m to 5:00 p.m. and closed Sunday and Monday.  The gallery is also open by appointment by calling (575) 808-0042.