Blazing New Trails
The Cowboy Artists of America brings its vision of the West to Fort Worth, Texas, on November 1 and 2.
The Cowboy Artists of America have embarked on a new adventure for its 2019 exhibition and sale. Good thing cowboys and adventures usually go hand in hand. After many years in Oklahoma City— and before that, many years in Phoenix—the influential art group has struck out on its own with the 54th annual Cowboys Artists of America Sale & Exhibition to be held November 1 and 2 at Amon G. Carter Jr. Exhibits Hall in Fort Worth, Texas. The show will have many familiar elements—the high-quality artwork, artist demonstrations and a fixed-price, by-draw sale—and yet it’s a wild departure from previous shows. Mostly because the CAA has to orchestrate every aspect of it, from the parking and ticket distribution, to the catering and lighting, to the gallery space and hanging of the artwork—every facet of the show is left to the members to plan and carry out.
At the center of all of it is CAA president Jason Rich. “Everything is coming together great. And best of all, the response from our Texas and Fort Worth fans has been fantastic. We’re going to get a warm welcome when we arrive,” Rich says from his Utah studio. The artist was positioned for the role of president several years ago, a role he volunteered for. “No one had any idea this was coming down the pike several years ago, but now here we are and it’s fallen on me. I’m happy to lead the group out and undertake this whole project. When you follow the CA back, it was one of the forerunners of these modern museum exhibitions and sales.
Now all the museums do them. So it’s going to be fun to see what we can come up with.”
Rich is quick to point out that the museum the group is coming from, the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma, is a world-class venue that was very good to the group and to Western art in general. “We love them there, and all that they stand for. It is a great place, the premier place, for Western art,” he says. “The reason we left was because we realized there were some goals we wanted to pursue, particularly some of our education goals, but we also wanted to get back to the Cowboy Artists. Over the last couple of years, we’d lost some of our identity, so for this show we wanted to showcase who we are and let everyone know what our mission is. We have a chance to present who we are and what we stand for. It was a tough choice to make this move, but we’re excited at what the future holds for us.”
He adds that the group will continue to work with museums in the future, and even has some exciting museum news that may be announced at the Fort Worth show— “Museums are an important part to everything we do,” he says. Meanwhile, for this year’s show, it’s up to the Rich and his wife, Kari, and the rest of the CAA to turn out a hit in Fort Worth. Events begin November 1 with a preview party with food, drinks and live music, followed by a full day of events on November 2, which includes a morning autograph session, an awards luncheon and finally the evening sale. The art demonstrations are going to get an upgrade: instead of doing the demos in the same venue as the sale, the artists will fan out across Fort Worth’s Cultural District. Artists will set up shop at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, the Kimbell Art Museum, National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame and the Cattle Raisers Museum, all of which are within walking distance of each other. There will also be an artist at the Sid Richardson Museum, home to one of the great collections of works by Charles M. Russell and Frederic Remington.
“Fort Worth has one of the great arts districts. Everything is right there, including world-class museums,” Rich says, adding that the demos will fulfill one of the group’s
educational goals, as will some young visitors. “On Friday we have some arts groups coming through from nearby schools and we will all be there answering their questions. It’s a great opportunity for schoolkids to interact with the artists. We want to be there to build those relationships and interact with everyone.”
Active members of the CAA include Wayne Baize, Teal Blake, Tom Browning, Tyler Crow, Mikel Donahue, C. Michael Dudash, Phil Epp, Bruce Greene, Martin Grelle, Oreland Joe, Bill Nebeker, Jim Norton, Dustin Payne, Clark Kelley Price, Chad Poppleton, Grant Redden and Jason Scull. Additionally, several noteworthy emeritus members will also be participating, including John Coleman.
Artworks in the show include Epp’s contemporary scenes of Western lands, all rendered in magnificently vibrant color and dramatic compositions that play with the vastness of the landscape; Redden’s roughand-tumble cowboys; Price’s historical scenes involving working cowboys and cowgirls, Native Americans and trappers; Joe’s ledgerinspired oil paintings, each one imbued with symbolism and storytelling; and Blake’s playful views of the West, including an image of a burro with a faded, time-weathered Coca-cola sign. Poppleton, the group’s newest member, will be showing his wildlife and cowboy paintings.
Grelle will be presenting a new work, In a World of Change, showing a lone Native American figure on horseback. “I have been wanting to do a painting of a Crow scout for a while, and had the opportunity to have it modeled this past summer. The latter part of the 19th century saw huge changes for the Native peoples, especially for those living in the Western part of the country. In the turmoil, old enemies remained, and new alliances were formed,” Grelle says. “Many warriors were hired by the cavalry to scout against traditional enemies, and at times against their own people as well…as was the case with the Sioux during the events leading up to Wounded Knee in 1890. For these warriors, their world was rapidly evolving—as they tried to retain their heritage but also tried to find ways to become a part of the overwhelming world that was coming upon them.”
Greene will be showing both oils and bronzes, including the action-packed While Riding the Canyon Rim, which shows a rider encountering two deer. The Texas painter can’t wait to show his work, and the work of his fellow CA members, in his home state. “I’ve seen tremendous excitement here in Fort Worth. People are particularly excited to be interacting with the museum district, which has been very supportive and helpful as they work with us and what we’re trying to do,” Greene says. “Fort Worth is a neat place, especially for fans of the West, and we can’t wait to show there.”
Grant Redden, Chance of Rain, oil on linen, 29 x 31”
Phil Epp, Approaching Storm, acrylic on board, 30 x 40”
Dustin Payne, Mystery of the Riverbed, bronze, ed. of 17, 12 x 24 x 11”
Tom Browning, Evening Ride, oil, 19 x 18”
Martin Grelle, In a World of Change, oil on linen, 40 x 30”
John Coleman, Mother’s Favorite, oil, 24 x 16”
Oreland Joe, Plenty of Horses, oil, 36 x 24”