One of the most significant Western art events kicks off October 4 – 6, 2018 at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.
The Cowboy Crossings show brings together the top tier of artists and craftsmen working in the Western arts for the premier annual show at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Collectors and the public alike mark their calendars and wouldn’t miss the opportunity to see what the members of the Cowboy Artists of America and the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association have been working on all year for the big event.
We caught up with CAA president Martin Grelle while he was getting his first cup of coffee of the day to talk about the work he’ll be showing and what he’s looking forward to at this year’s Cowboy Crossings. We have also included a slideshow below that previews work showing at Cowboys Crossings.
Cowboys & Indians: What have you been working on for the Cowboy Crossings show?
Martin Grelle: Thankfully we had deadlines that forced me to get things done earlier this year. I’ve got four pieces in the show: two oils, a small acrylic, and a charcoal drawing. It’s been a really busy year as president, and I’ve been working on multiple things for the CA group. Right now I’m working with the [National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum] as they’re doing the final work on the catalog for the show. I wrote the story about our annual trail ride and a presidential statement and I helped edit photographs, etc.
C&I: How long has it been now since the CAA and TCAA came together in one Cowboy Crossings show?
Grelle: The first year was 2011, so this is will be the eighth year. One really fun part about exhibiting together is that the TCAA is a great association: great artists and craftsmen that we’ve been having fun getting to know. It’s an asset because the combination has created a truly unique show at this level. This is the upper level of both artists and craftsmen. CAA collectors and TCAA collectors come and get exposed to the other. We’ve seen some great results where the TCAA collectors have purchased some of the CA work and vice versa.
Memories of Horses and Men, oil on linen, 44” x 44”
C&I: What are you looking forward to about this year’s show?
Grelle: First, the show itself, of course. It’s a really strong show, even for a lot of these guy who have been in difficult circumstances health-wise. But they’re still coming with really great pieces. Overall, it’s a very traditional CA show. One of our newest members, Phil Epp, has a couple of really large-scale pieces. Some guys have broadened their scope, including Jason Rich (he follows me as president), who has some fun new pieces. We also have some wildlife-oriented pieces, including some buffalo and antelope.
It’s a broadly scoped show with a great variety of works for the [exhibition itself] and for the collectors. The museum is amazing with how they put the show together visually. You move through both shows effectively and it all meshes great. I’m just so excited to see what it’s going to look like.
The largest piece I have in the show was on the cover of Art of the West. It’s a different style of work for me. I normally don’t have a comfort level cutting the body off, but this is a standing figure, Memories of Horses and Men, and I wanted to concentrate on the upper body. The whole story is told by what he’s holding and the shirt he’s wearing. I shot the reference [photograph] at sunset in Montana, late in the day. The clouds were catching beautiful colors and it all melded together. Another piece, She Awaits Her Warrior, is of an Indian girl sitting pensively on big old cottonwood log; it also tells the story with what’s in the painting, with what she’s holding, and the emotion in her expression.
She Awaits Her Warrior, oil on linen, 40” x 30”
C&I: What do you like to do when you’re in OKC for Cowboy Crossings?
Grelle: We’ve done different planned events. One year we went to an unbelievable shooting range. I really enjoy the Bricktown area. We have friends who have a condo in that area. I like Remington Park, the horse races over there. Oklahoma City has a lot more to it than what I ever realized. There’s really a lot to see and do there.
C&I: What’s on the horizon for CAA? How do you keep infusing new energy to actively carry the legacy of the West forward in fine art?
Grelle: The CAA is always watching for possible new members, and what we seek are talented artists who have a passion for the West and its history, as well as a respect for the legacy and history of the CAA organization itself, and the members who are part of it. They must be able to make CAA a priority in their schedule. We have been able to bring in several new members over the past few years that meet that description, but who have also broadened the scope of styles and subjects of the artwork within the group. That is exciting for us! We are very open to more “contemporary” views of the subjects we are trying to portray and the history we hope to keep.
Our CAA Joe Beeler Foundation is well-established now as a source of scholarship opportunities for artists who are serious about improving their work — and through the sale of the book we produced in celebration of the CAA's 50th anniversary in 2015, The Sons of Charlie Russell, we have more funds available than ever before to help artists seeking to learn. CAA artists are also involved in teaching and mentoring aspiring artists, and we have begun to combine the human resources of the CAA and the financial resources of the CAAJBF to put on affordable workshops around the country. It is our goal to make these workshops, at the very least, annual events.
As president, I have been actively seeking to take the organization into a positive future, and we are in the process of working on several new events. I have also had a very progressive board of directors to work with, and they have had great ideas for new ways to take CAA forward. One event was begun this past July, and will be an annual opportunity for our collectors. We held CAA Cowboy Trails — our first-ever completely online sale. The work in the sale was inspired by this year’s trail ride location (the o6 Ranch). Each year in July we will have the Cowboy Trails online sale featuring originals inspired by that year’s ride. The information [about that] will be available each year through the CAA website.
While we hold on to the traditions, ideals, and values that have brought CAA to this point in history as the longest-lasting art organization of its type, we are ever looking forward toward the history yet to be made, and the role that we will play in it.
Read more about Cowboy Crossings, read more about the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association craftsmen, and read our interview with Traditional Cowboy Arts Association president Wilson Capron about the show.
Opening weekend of Cowboy Crossings is October 4 – 6 at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. Galleries open to the public Saturday, October 6. For more information, visit nationalcowboymuseum.org, cowboyartistsofameria.com, tcowboyarts.org.