No, this isn’t the beginning of joke, but the beginning of how the Cowboy Artists of America organization—the longest running artist-founded group in the world—was established back in 1965.
Charlie Dye, John Hampton, Joe Beeler and George Phippen met at Oak Creek Tavern in Sedona on June 23, 1965 as cowboys and artists who were anxious to document and preserve the western way of life through traditional art applications.
In the psychedelic 60s art movement of “Pop Art,” “Conceptualism,” “Minimalism,” “Maximalism” and so on, where radicals like Andy Warhol and Yoko Ono reigned supreme, how dare a small group of Old West relics champion traditional American lifestyles in representational art applications?
But that’s just what they did, and it was a historic hit.
As these good old boys talked, organized, laughed, and drank they came up with what would be the official objectives of the group:
“To perpetuate the memory and culture of the Old West as typified by the late Frederic Remington, Charles Russell, and others; to insure authentic representations of the life of the West, as it was and is; to maintain standards of quality in contemporary Western art; to help guide collectors of Western art; to give mutual assistance in protection of artists’ rights; to conduct a trail ride and campout in some locality of special interest once a year; and to hold an annual joint exhibition of the works of active members.”
From humble beginnings to coming up on 50 years “The CA,” as it is called, has been both praised and poo-pooed, championed and chastised. They’ve weathered controversy, battled bullies and control mongers, enjoyed financial sensation and endured economic difficulty. Through it all, this elite group of artists have maintained control over the group’s destiny and produced some of the most significant and valuable works of art in history.
Somehow the stars of the western skies aligned so that I get to be part of this rich heritage.
This weekend, Jason and I are off to Oklahoma City for Jason’s debut in the Cowboy Artists annual art exhibition and sale since his acceptance into the group a year ago. We love the CA and have followed them for years—Jason, since he was just a little kid pouring over Remington and Russel art books for hours and hours.
Jason’s been painting, stressing and stewing for months to put his show together.
I think it’s a beauty.
We’re armed with paintbrushes and big dreams in our holsters as we head off into the Oklahoma sunset to make our mark on the western art world.
Wish us luck, ya’ll!