Bob & Debbie Macy | Home on the Range: A Collection

The living room features paintings by O.C. Seltzer, Roy Andersen, and Howard Terpning as well as sculpture by Rick Jackson and Glenna Goodacre.  southwest art.
The living room features paintings by O.C. Seltzer, Roy Andersen, and Howard Terpning as well as sculpture by Rick Jackson and Glenna Goodacre.

By Bonnie Gangelhoff

There’s a mule braying in the distance as we cross a cattle guard at the entrance to the sprawling Macy Ranch an hour southeast of Lubbock, TX. The sign on the front gate sports the Macy brand, a swooping “M.” So do the hefty bovines that mill and loll on the scrubby terrain.

Within a few minutes a white stucco house with a red tile roof comes into view. The Spanish Colonial structure is friendly and charming outside. Terra cotta pots brim with flowers yellow lantana, red pentas, and purple fountain grass, all illuminated by a sizzling sun. But for lovers of western art, it’s the inside of the Macy home that holds a special allure. Here ranchers Bob and Debbie Macy have amassed a stunning homage to western artists, in particular the members of the prestigious Cowboy Artists of America group.

Bob and Debbie Macy. southwest art.
Bob and Debbie Macy.

In fact, their home near the tiny town of Post is like a miniature “hall of fame” for the Cowboy Artists, including as it does works by Howard Terpning, James Reynolds, Roy Andersen, Frank McCarthy, and more. “My original goal was to have a piece by every CAA member,” says Bob Macy as he conducts a tour of his impressive collection. Bob began collecting art in 1973 and today has works by 21 CAA members.

What better setting for traditional western art than a 100-year-old working ranch, where the cowboys and cattle fill the Macy’s daily life just as they fill the canvases of their art collection. Ain’t no city slickers in these parts. For decades real cowboys have roamed the Macy’s range branding, feeding, and herding cattle. Bob’s great-grandfather, John B. Slaughter, is one of the great names in southwestern ranching. He moved to the area in 1901 and eventually owned 126,227 acres of ranch land.

A scenic view of the Macy ranch. southwet art.
A scenic view of the Macy ranch.

When James Michener was researching his book Texas [1985 Ballantine Books] in 1983, he visited the historic West Texas ranch. Bob, who’s also a pilot, flew the author “over the cotton farms of Levelland (near Lubbock),” as Michener says while thanking him in the book’s acknowledgements.

One of the first things Michener—himself an art lover must have noticed inside the Macy home is the arched doorway that leads into the dining room and straight to Rio Arriba, a stunning southwestern landscape painting by Wilson Hurley. It was the first artwork Bob purchased in 1973, about the same time he was completing the construction of his ranch home. “I hung it 27 years ago and have never moved it since,” he says, recalling how he had looked for months for the perfect painting. He finally found it in a now-defunct gallery in Lubbock.

A quiet corner of the living room shows off a painting by William Acheff. southwest art.
A quiet corner of the living room shows off a painting by William Acheff.

While the painting depicts a fierce thunderstorm near Los Alamos, NM, the scenery could easily be mistaken for the sublime vistas seen from the Macy’s back patio. It overlooks craggy red rocks that drop off dramatically for more than 100 feet. Rough country, the Macys call it.

For years cowboys have come in from this rough country to gather for lunch around the Macy’s dark wood dining table. While chowing down on smothered steak, red beans, and mashed potatoes they are afforded the pleasure of the Hurley painting and other nearby dining companions—paintings by Brownell McGrew, Tom Lovell, and Joseph Sharp.

Bob Macy’s collecting bug bit when he worked as a volunteer at the annual OS Ranch Steer Roping & Art Exhibit, which debuted in Post in the early 1970s. The event began as a steer-roping contest, but in 1972 Tom Ryan, a member of the Cowboy Artists of America, convinced the local OS Ranch to add an art sale. Over the next decade, the show earned a reputation as a premier gathering place for western art collectors and dealers. A major drawing card: artists like Joe Beeler, Gordon Snidow, and Ray Swanson, who came to Post along with their paintings.

The dining room features Rio Arriba by Wilson Hurley. southwest art.
The dining room features Rio Arriba by Wilson Hurley.

The Macys soon became friends with the artists and began hosting an annual luncheon for them at the ranch. “They were all cowboys. As a rancher myself I had quite a bit to talk about with them,” Bob says. “I got to know artists like Johnny Hampton and Brownell Mc-Grew. Out here on the ranch they could really let their hair down.”

The annual Post event ended in 1982, and by then Bob was a serious collector. He started out purchasing small works by the Cowboy Artists of America and eventually graduated to buying larger ones. “I always tried to buy the nicest pieces I could find—ones that I enjoyed looking at. I never bought anything just for an artist’s name,” Bob says.

While Bob is the driving force behind acquiring the Cowboy Artists’ works, Debbie brings her passion for textiles, baskets, and southwestern pottery to the couple’s collection. Their living room is a telling example of how harmoniously the couple’s passions commingle antique Persian rugs, Native American weavings, and pottery complement the bronze sculptures and western paintings.

Mending the Jar by E.I. Couse hangs above Mother s Love by Robert Taylor. southwest art.
Mending the Jar by E.I. Couse hangs above Mother’s Love by Robert Taylor.

A vaulted sandstone fireplace that bears the large painting A Remembered Time by Roy Andersen is the focal point of the room. The piece depicts a gathering of elder tribesmen in the foreground while the tribe’s “young bucks” are seen in the background looking “ready to do battle,” as Bob points out. The work is flanked by Howard Terpning’s The Cache and O.C. Seltzer’s White Man’s Buffalo.

Several southwestern clay pots dot the mantle, including a rare black one by Maria and Julian Martinez and a smooth-surfaced white vessel by a Santa Domingo Pueblo potter. A small bronze relief, Little Bigfoot by Glenna Goodacre, sits on the hearth.

Western bronzes pose on a table behind the Macys’ white leather sofa, including Headin’ for the Gathering by Rick Jackson. “Everyone who passes by touches it, and the horse’s rump has been rubbed shiny. The patina is gone, but we like it that way,” Debbie says. “Rick offered to restore the patina, but we said no.”

Nearby a William Acheff painting called Trappings hangs over a distressed green leather chair and ottoman. The off-white Berber carpet offers a neutral background for the art and textiles that inhabit the space. For example, the carpet is blanketed with an antique red Persian Heriz rug and a number of small Native American rugs. A Navajo weaving by Barbara Teller rests on one end table, which is also a gathering spot for small southwestern clay pots.

An alcove features paintings by Jason Rich and Tom Lovell and a sculpture by Robert Taylor. southwest art.
An alcove features paintings by Jason Rich and Tom Lovell and a sculpture by Robert Taylor.

A nearby hallway features an entire wall of paintings by the Cowboy Artists, including James Reynolds, Don Crowley, Frank McCarthy, Kenneth Riley, and Gary Nib-lett. Dusty, a portrayal of a cowboy on the range by up-and-coming Utah artist Jason Rich, hangs on an adjacent wall. The hallway also features an oak console table displaying family memorabilia and western artifacts. Spurs, knifes and scabbards, and pottery shards spill out of open drawers.

The 16-foot beamed ceilings, rich wool rugs, leather sofas, fine western art, and artifacts all combine to create an atmosphere reminiscent of the ranch depicted in the epic movie Giant. It was filmed in another West Texas town, Marfa.

As the Macys’ art collection has grown, the couple has developed an interest in the old masters. They recently purchased works by Frank Tenney Johnson, Joseph Sharp, and E.I. Couse. “Bob is the cowboy and I lean toward the Indian influence,” Debbie says. “The history and stories behind the Sharp, Couse, and Johnson paintings appeal to me right now. But we never buy anything unless we both like it.”

As this story was going to press the Macys were headed for the annual Coeur d’Alene Art Auction in Reno, NV. In August Debbie makes her annual trek to the Santa Fe Indian Market. The couple has also purchased art at galleries in Scottsdale, AZ, and Dallas, TX. But don’t ask Bob to choose a favorite painting or sculpture. “They are like kids—you love them all,” he says.

He does know what he likes—or doesn’t like, as the case may be. “I can’t stand art where someone has to explain it to me. I like some modern art but I could care less about Picasso and abstract art,” Bob says.

When asked for advice for new collectors, he responds without missing a beat: “Look to find the best quality you can afford. Look at a lot of art. Look at what people consider good art. Study the masters,” he says.

That advice applies to seasoned collectors like the Macys, too. And Bob notes that the couple is still collecting even though, as he puts it in plain Texas talk, “We are flat out of space.”

Featured in October 2000