By Kristin Hoerth
I just returned from the Cowboy Artists of America’s 46th annual exhibition and sale, which was held at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City for the first time since the early 1970s. The museum was the original home of the CAA show for seven years, from 1966 to 1972—except that back then it was known as the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, which everyone shortened to “the Cowboy Hall” or just “the Hall.”
Back then, as CAA artist Tim Cox pointed out in his President’s Message in this year’s catalog, western art was in its infancy. But sales totaled $49,000 at the first show, a lofty figure for 1966. In fact, many collectors may not realize the influence those early CAA shows had on the art history of the West. In the early 1970s, articles in major magazines like Business Week, U.S. News & World Report, and Arizona Highways reported on the boom in western art, helping to draw national and international attention.
Over the past half-century, the CAA artists have stayed true to the group’s mission: “to authentically preserve and perpetuate the culture of western life in fine art.” As Cox says, “We are not just another art show. We are a tight-knit group of individuals with similar likes and a deep devotion to preserving the western way of life, past and present.” So it seems entirely fitting that these dedicated cowboy artists have returned to the nation’s most important cowboy museum. Said museum president Chuck Schroeder, “We believe that bringing the Cowboy Artists of America home to the National Cowboy Museum is one of the most exciting and historic events to take place in the art world in a very long time.”
As usual, the CAAs handed out a full roster of awards during the show’s opening weekend. Loren Entz was one of the night’s biggest winners, taking home the gold medal for oils, the silver for drawing, the Stetson artists’ choice award for best overall exhibition, and the Ray Swanson Memorial Award. The new Anne Marion Best of Show award—presented by Marion herself—as well as the gold medal for sculpture went to John Coleman for his impressive 8-foot-long piece titled 1876—Gall, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse.
Finally, the CAAs welcomed three new members into their ranks this year: painters Jason Rich and John Jarvis, and sculptor Jason Scull. They will join the other 22 active members in the important and challenging task of preserving a traditional genre in a quickly changing world. –December 2011