THE COWBOY LEGACY
The CAA returns to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.
The reason symbols are so effective is how much they say with so little. Consider the cattle brand: it’s a length of iron with a tip that, when heated up red-hot, stamps a simple little icon into a cow’s flank. The mark—sometimes just an abstract arrangement of shapes or even two crossed letters or numbers—signifies ownership, but the brand means so much more to the people who ride under it. There is a pride that comes with those marks, and a valuable sense of accomplishment to see it spread out on hundreds of cattle on a range. In that brand is a great history, and also a dream of the future.
The Cowboy Artists of America has its iconic “CA,” which often works like a brand: it shows a form of ownership, or membership, when it appears next to a signature; it invokes a sense of pride in those that get to stamp it on paintings or bronzes; and it also represents a Western legacy, one that is rooted in the history of art of the American West and shines forward into the future. That CA mark will return to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum October 4 for Cowboy Crossings, the joint exhibition for the Cowboy Artists of America and the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association.
Susan Patterson, curator of special exhibits at the museum, says this year’s show will once again expand on the rich and wonderful story that is taking place in Western art. “It’s looking really great this year. They really do excel with every show, and this year is no exception,” Patterson says, adding that she is especially excited to present works from the CA’S newest members, including Phil Epp, Mikel Donahue, C. Michael Dudash and Tyler Crow, all inducted in 2016, and sculptor Dustin Payne, who was named the group’s newest member last year. Payne is the first sculptor inducted into the group since Jason Scull was invited in 2011.
“It’s wonderful watching them continue to grow as an organization. They all have such unique voices in their works. This year we’ll have Dustin Payne, whose
work is going to fit right in with the group. We even have Phil Epp, who’s mostly known as a painter, even he is bringing a bronze piece, which is very exciting,” she says. “On the flipside, we have artists like Oreland Joe, long known for his sculptural work, who will be bringing some paintings inspired by ledger art. Oreland is exceptionally talented, and if he could bring jewelry he would bring that too. The entire group is unbelievably talented.”
Works in the show include two stunning cowboy oil paintings by Tom Browning, Darn Near Quittin’ Time and In for the Brand, both of which show Browning’s sense of setting and action; Grant Redden’s nocturne Western Moonlight; two major new Martin Grelle works, She Awaits Her Warrior and Memories of Horses and Men; a full-body cowboy portrait by Donahue; five very contemporary cowboy and horse pieces, several of them quite large, by Epp, including one that celebrates the Chisholm Trail; new cowboy and ranching scenes by Wayne Baize; and a gorgeously lit prairie scene with mountain men figures by Clark Kelley Price.
Other artists that will have work include Bill Nebeker, Tyler Crow, Harold T. Holden, Paul Moore, Loren Entz, Bruce Greene, Jim Norton, Jason Rich and Jason Scull.
Another artist who will be bringing stunning new pieces is Teal Blake, whose work as a real-life cowboy inspires all of his paintings. Blake largely started as a watercolor painter, but has gradually pushed his way into oils, and with great effect, too. New oils include Ranch Water, which shows a cowboy and two horses wading in a reflective pool, and Western Son, featuring a cowboy taking a break in the shade as two saddled horses wait in a nearby corral. He will also be bringing a watercolor, The Cowboy Kind, of a horse and rider pushing through a surge of cattle.
“I’m always trying to push myself so every year I pick some really hard stuff and just go for it,” Blake says. “I’m very excited for this year’s show. The quality of the work I’ve seen is great. Our shows are getting stronger and stronger. Of course the market has lulls here and there, but we’re picking it up and making it happen. We’re always a unified group and we’re always on the same page and pushing forward. We’re also all excited about [new museum president and CEO] Natalie Shirley. She’s really rolling with the punches and she knows what she’s doing. She has a great team behind her and they’re determined to make this year’s show the best one, which makes us feel pretty good about going into it.”
Shirley, who was appointed to the position by the museum’s board of directors in January, is the museum’s first woman president and CEO. “The quality and diversity of perspectives showcased in Cowboy Crossings is indicative of how vast and relevant the West is to everyone today,” she says. “Western art is at the foundation of the National Cowboy Museum’s mission, and the combination of art styles represented in this show, such as saddles and spurs along with paintings and sculpture, enables everyone to identify with a part of the West.”
While the exhibition runs through November 25, the major components of the exhibition will take place during the opening weekend, including a dinner with the artists on October 4, an exclusive preview on October 5, and a suite of activities on October 6, including an autograph party, lunch with the artists, art demonstrations by Epp and Joe, and the fixed-price by-draw sale followed by an awards dinner.
Phil Epp, Out of the Blue, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 84”
Grant Redden, Western Moonlight, oil, 24 x 30”
Martin Grelle, She Awaits Her Warrior, oil on linen, 40 x 30”
Mikel Donahue, 06 Cowboy, acrylic, 24 x 15”