Cowboy Crossings Show Blends Fine Art, Western Gear

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2 Clip Drain Buckle
Elder Speaks
Bean Saddle
Browing Splittin Em Upat the University ofCentral Oklahoma
Willemsma Wrist Cuffs

Cowboy Crossings Show Blends Fine Art, Western Gear


When you think of a working cowboy’s saddle, you probably imagine a well-worn piece of leather, weary from use and aged by wind, rain and the scorching sun. After all, a cowboy’s saddle, spurs and lariat are functional tools of his trade.

Your traditional image of cowboy gear will be changed forever when you attend the Cowboy Crossings exhibition, opening October 10 and running through Jan. 3, 2016 at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.

This annual exhibition involves 15 active and emeritus members of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association and 26 active/emeritus members of the Cowboy Artists of America. Both prestigious national groups are dedicated to creating the finest work in painting, sculpting, silver and leather artistry.

The 2015 exhibition of cowboy art and exquisite gear will be the 17th National Cowboy Museum exhibition for the TCAA and the 50th for the CAA, which moved its show and home base from the Phoenix Museum of Art to the NCM five years ago.

Steven Karr, the museum’s president, savors the significance of the golden anniversary for the CAA.

“This year, the CAA reached out to its emeritus members and Howard Terpning was among those who responded by entering a painting in the show,” he said.

Karr sees that as a coup for the museum. Terpning is one of the most revered Western artists in the country and a two-time winner of the museum’s prestigious Prix de West Purchase Award. “Obviously, we are very excited about his participation,” Karr notes.

Other CAA emeritus members participating are Harley Brown, Fred Fellows, David Halbach, T. D. Kelsey and Herb Mignery. Emeritus TCAA members presenting art are Mark Dahl and Mark Drain.

The paintings and sculptures by CAA members reflect the cowboy lifestyle – past and present. Some works are reminiscent of the earliest days of a cowboy’s life on the open range to today’s contemporary cowboys who use cell phones, helicopters and state-of-the-art air conditioned pickups to do their jobs.

These works of art cross ethnic, cultural and geographical borders tell the story of the cowboy and the American West in oil and acrylics, stone and bronze.

Viewers will find compelling scenes of nature’s beauty in the West, contemporary cowboys riding the range or a historical scene like Martin Grelle’s oil painting, Plans Against the Pecunies.

TCAA members traditionally provide a stunning repertoire of hand-tooled leather saddles accented by gleaming silver accents, intricate braided horsehair bolos and lariats, and stunning silver bits and spurs. Rick Bean combined decorative leather with intricate silver conchos for a saddle he named Diamond Back.

The TCAA members create highly collectible gear that was never intended for use inside a dusty corral.

Karr says, “The TCAA artists have elevated their work to a fine art form. We still have work ahead of us in helping the public understand these seemingly utilitarian efforts, while carrying a strong workmanlike component, are still very much individual expressions of art.”

“Bit and spur making, leather tooling and rawhide braiding are all artistic expressions. Their beauty is unrivaled in terms of the artists’ style and craftsmanship that goes into each piece,” Karr adds.

Both art groups strive to create authentic representations of the life of the West, as it was and is today, while maintaining standards of the highest quality in contemporary Western art.

The TCAA is dedicated to preserving and promoting the skills of saddle making, bit and spur making, silversmithing and rawhide braiding. Each piece in the show reveals the role of these traditional working art crafts in the cowboy culture of the North American West.

Karr is especially pleased with the duality aspect of the show.

“We are bringing together two important areas of Western culture – art and the mediums of paint and sculpture – the superior craftsmanship of art pieces that would have once only been described as utilitarian,” he notes.

When Karr walks into the museum galleries where the show is staged, his first impression goes well beyond the traditional “Wow” factor that guests often experience.

“My first impression of the West is, in part, represented in its truest nature through these dual artistic expressions,” he said.
“Western art is at the cornerstone of our mission at the National Cowboy Museum, and the caliber and variety of perspectives included in Cowboy Crossings demonstrate how expansive and relevant the West is to who we are today,” Karr believes.

He adds, “The combination of working art, such as saddles and spurs, with fine art, like paintings and sculptures, enables everyone who visits the show to find a part of their image of the West.”

Join Cowboy Crossings Show
For Opening Weekend Events

The formal invitation to “Cowboy Crossings” invited guests to “Come be a party of history!” in observance of the Cowboy Artists of America historic 50-year milestone.

The opening event includes a limited seating formal dinner with the 41 artists and patrons at the Petroleum Club Oct. 8.

Special events are planned Oct. 9 for patrons, including a tour of the Devon Tower and the Myriad Botanical Gardens, a luncheon at the Wilshire Gun Range and an exclusive preview of the exhibition.

The weekend show culminates Oct. 10 with the 5 p.m. sale, followed by a banquet and awards ceremony. For ticket information call 405-478-2250, Ext. 219. The show continues through Jan. 3, 2016.

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