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Grant Speed

Biography from the Archives of askART

Western sculptor Grant Speed was born in 1930 in San Angelo, Texas. As a youth there was little evidence to indicate Grant would become an artist, instead he was fascinated with learning to ride and to rope. Throughout high-school Grant spent his summers and post-high school years working as a cowboy on his uncle's ranch. Soon, he was working on neighboring ranches and became an accomplished horse breaker. When he grew older, he put his cowboying talents to work as a rodeo rider.

At the age of 18, he joined the U.S. Air Force for two years. During the next seven years he worked as a cowhand and rodeo rider, completed a three-year mission for his church, and attended college. In 1958 he married Sue Collins and they have three children. Speed received his Bachelor of Science degree in "Animal Science" from Brigham Young University in 1959 and supported his family as an elementary school teacher-living in Provo and working in Salt Lake City.

While working he always had his mind on art, Speed says, "Having come from conservative West Texas, I really wanted to be the world's best cowboy. Yet every time I got a chance to be around any kind of western art, I couldn't stop reading about it, looking at it and studying it."

When he started working at sculpture, he first did a model with some of his daughter's school clay-red and gray and green all mixed together. "Would you believe that when I seriously started working on my art, no one knew about it except my wife? Every time someone came to the door, I would grab my stuff and hide it."

The first serious sculpture Speed did was in an art class at BYU. He had it cast and gave the first of the ten casts to his wife. The other nine sold immediately. This success was a serious incentive for the would-be sculptor. He recalls, "for about eight years I didn't hardly get any sleep because I taught school all day and worked on art all night . . . I'm not talking about till just 12 o'clock, I'm talking about until two or three in the morning. And then I got up at 6:30 and went to teach school. I probably did twelve to fifteen years of work in the first eight. It took dedication and intensity in knowing that, boy, you've made up your mind to do it now."

After eight years Speed quit his teaching job to devote his life full time to art. Grant Speed's work and career have grown steadily since those days in the 1960s. In 1965 he joined a group of western artists, "The Cowboy Artists of America "(CAA). He has served several times as president of this group and has won many awards for his work.

His more well-known commissions include a monumental sculpture of Charles Goodnight for the Pan Handle Plains Museum of Canyon, Texas, and one of rock and roll pioneer Buddy Holly for Lubbock, Texas. An edition of Speed's Keepin' an Eye on the Riders was chosen by BYU as a gift to actor Jimmy Stewart, when he was honored by the University in 1985. Speed created a life-size horse and rider monument depicting Texas Tech University's Mascot, The Red Raider, in 1990. He was also commissioned to do a sculpture of actor John Wayne.

In addition to completing commissions, Grant Speed continues to exhibit extensively throughout the West. Speed characterizes his work as "Loose Realism." His work is full of passion and enthusiasm for the subject matter, born out of his own experience. His sculpture also speaks of a love for the medium and the process, with an aggressive use of texture and delightful exploration of the possibilities of clay and bronze. Dr. Vern Swanson, Director of the Springville Museum of Art, terms Speed a Cowboy Western Impressionist and says Ropin' Out the Best Ones is a "pure action piece in technique and subject."

Carefully researched before they are modeled and cast in bronze, Speed has said about his sculpture, "I'm interested in capturing the heart, soul and essence of my subjects as they are caught up in the basic themes of existence, man against nature, man against horse." Most of his sculptures are highly detailed, relatively small and generally full of movement and energy, as in Recoverin' the Stolen Horses.

Speed enjoys the results of the sculpture process, saying "It's my feeling that each bronze is an original, because in any edition none of the sculptures are exactly the same." His fellow artists recognize Speed not only as an artist but also as a man of deep character and quiet faith. Today, Grant Speed and his family live in Lindon, Utah. He comments that it's a good life, though he admits "sometimes I'd really rather be "cowboyin."

Speed has exhibited at the Phoenix Art Museum and the Whitney Gallery of Western Art, Cody, Wyoming. Among his awards is the Gold Medal for Sculpture, Cowboy Artists of America Annual, and the Purchase Award, Men's Art Council, Phoenix Art Museum. Grant Speed's work is in the collections of the Whitney Gallery of Western Art and the Diamond M. Museum.

Les Krantz, American Artists, An Illustrated Survey of Leading Contemporary Artists

Biography from the Archives of askART

Following is an obituary of the artist,, courtesy of Ann Ramsey:

Ulysses Grant Speed passed away October 1, 2011. He was born in San Angelo, Texas on January 6, 1930. As a youth, he was fascinated with learning to ride and rope horses. Throughout high school and post high school years, he spent his summers working as a cowboy on his Uncle Boone's ranch in West Texas. Soon, he was working on other ranches, namely, the Four Sixes and the King Ranch of Texas, where he became an accomplished horse breaker. He quickly used his 'cowboying' talents as a rodeo contestant in the bare back and bull-riding events. He continued participating in these events while at Brigham Young University and on into his marriage to Sue.

When he was 18, he joined the United States Air Force for two years during the Korean War. He learned to be an airplane mechanic and continued his love for this great country throughout his life.

During the next seven years, he worked as a cowhand and rodeo rider, and then completed a two and a half year Spanish-American Mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, learning to speak Spanish fluently.

When he returned from his mission, he entered the Brigham Young University where he met and married Sue Collins in 1958, in the Salt Lake Temple. He graduated in 1959, the same year as their daughter, Peggy Sue was born.

He taught school for several years in Salt Lake City while living in Provo. He always had his mind on art. He said, "Having come from conservative West Texas, I really wanted to be the world's best cowboy. Yet, every time I got a chance to be around any kind of western art, I couldn't stop reading about it, looking at it and studying it."

When he began sculpting his first model, he used his daughter Peggy Sue's modeling clay. That model is still in his studio. He was beginning what would become his life work and passion. He let no one know about it, except Sue. "Every time someone came to the door, I would grab my stuff and hide it."

The first serious sculpture he did was in an art class at BYU. He then learned the art of bronze casting, because the costs of professional casting were prohibitive on a teacher's salary. He learned to cast with an old artist friend, Hughes Curtis, out behind Hughes' home in Springville. As he taught daily, he sculpted nights, getting little sleep, but loving his art. After seven years, he made the decision to quit teaching and continued his art career.

In 1965, he joined a group of western artists, the "Cowboy Artists of America" (CAA), serving several times as president of this group. His fellow artists and collectors of his art admire not only his work ethic and art, but that he is a man of deep character and quiet faith. He has said that it's been a good life, though he admits, "sometimes I'd really rather be "cowboyin'."

Grant has lived in Lindon, Utah since 1973 when they built their home there. Peggy Sue had died in 1965, the same year their son, Boone, was born. Samantha was born in the Fall of 1973.

He always said that the greatest blessings in his life are his children and his grandkids, Taylor, River, Lucy and Nic. He looked forward to the time he could "hug Peggy's neck". He looked forward to the time he could meet three of his favorite patriots and heroes, John Wayne, Abraham Lincoln and Audie Murphy! After a life of devotion to family, church and country, he's able to do just that!

Funeral services will be held at 1:00 p.m., Friday, October 7, 2011 at the Lindon 19th Ward Chapel, 731 East Center, Lindon, Utah. Friends may call from 11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m. prior to services. Interment will be in the Lindon City Cemetery, 600 North 200 East, Lindon.

Biography from Altermann Galleries & Auctioneers VI
Grant Speed

Traditional sculptor of bronzes of the Old West, born in San Angelo, Texas in 1930 and living in Lindon, Utah. "There is a mystique about the West," he observes, "that has captured people in all walks of life throughout the world. In the United States, there are movies, television shows, rodeos, books, and magazines all depicting the West. In the midst of this worldwide enthusiasm for the West, there is a growing interest in Western art."

Raised during the Depression, Grant Speed never doubted that he would be a rancher. At twelve, he began to summer on a ranch that was "the neatest place on earth." After he graduated from high school at seventeen, he was a working cowboy. Itchy feet took him to fifteen ranches by the time he was twenty-two, despite two hitches in the Air Force, but he wasn't any closer to buying a ranch of his own.

He enrolled in animal husbandry at Brigham Young University, spent two and a half years on a mission for the Mormon Church, was a professional bronco rider in the rodeo until he injured a leg, and in 1962, qualified as a teacher. In two years, he knew he was in the wrong job. He had kept to himself his interest in art, but now he "decided very seriously that I was going to give art everything I had in me." After teaching school all day, he taught himself to sculpt, and by 1965 he was selling bronzes at Trailside Galleries. The next year he was accepted into the Cowboy Artists of America and his career was established. He was featured in Ainsworth's The Cowboy in Art in 1968, and then quit teaching. In 1970, the entire edition of his bronze was sold out at the CAA show, and in 1976 he won the CAA gold medal. His biography From Broncs to Bronzes was published in 1979.

Resource: Contemporary Western Artists, by Peggy and Harold Samuels 1982, Judd's Inc., Washington, D.C.

Biography from Red Piano Art Gallery
Born in San Angelo, Texas, Grant Speed spent his first summers working as a cowboy. Learning to ride and rope on his uncle's ranch, Speed did not exhibit much early interest in a career as an artist, but it would be these early experiences that would later become the subjects of his work.  Trying his hand as everything from a horse breaker to a rodeo rider to a member of the U.S. Air Force, Speed eventually attended college earning a BS in Animal Science from Brigham Young University in 1959.

While studying at Brigham Young, Speed received his first formal introduction to sculpture.  He made ten casts of his first serious piece, giving the first of the ten to his wife; the other nine sold almost immediately.  After graduation, Speed made the decision to split his time between teaching elementary school during the day and working on his art at night.  After eight years of double duty, Speed quit his teaching job to focus on his sculpture full time.

Through the years, Speed has enjoyed much success.  He is a member of the Cowboy Artists of America, and has served as its president numerous times. His works are in the collections of the Panhandle Plains Museum of Canyon, Texas as well as Texas Tech University.

Today Speed continues to live and work in Utah, creating pieces that epitomize the feeling of the American West.

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About  Grant Speed

Born:  1930 - San Angelo, Texas
Died:   2011 - Lindon, Utah
Known for:  western genre and animal sculpture