Martin Grelle recently finished a piece titled A Moment of Peace, a concept that has recently eluded the painter’s own life. “I’m on 18-hour days right now,” he says from his studio, a wet palette at the ready near his easel. “They’ve been marathon painting sessions for the last several months, but an end is in sight.” The reason for the epic late-night painting sessions is a November 11 solo exhibition, Bound by Heart and Paint, at Legacy Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona, an exhibition that has all the makings for a historic art opening and not just for Scottsdale or Grelle, but for all of Western art. It’s rare to see more than three Grelle paintings in a single room together at one time, and for this show Grelle has aimed for nearly seven times that amount—20 in all. As best he can reckon, it will be the largest show he’s had in more than 15 years. The build-up for this new solo show has been a long time coming for the Texas painter, who has busied himself with everything but a solo exhibition for many years. Three years ago, as president of the Cowboy Artists of American, he helped set into motion the group’s 50th anniversary celebration, which itself was a year’s worth of museum shows, sales and retrospectives throughout 2015. Then, of course, there were the annual museum shows in Oklahoma, California, Indiana and others, each of which required anywhere from one to three major pieces. All of this was in addition to his personal life, which included a studio renovation, two sons were married, and Grelle himself was married in December 2016.

“Joyce has been very patient with her new husband as he lives in the studio,” the artist says, laughing at the ease at which he descends into a labyrinth of deadlines and commitments. “I’ve been told, ‘Grelle, there is a word called no.’ I tell them I use it frequently but there is still so much to say yes to.” Meanwhile, the Western world has waited patiently for each new Grelle work, whether they slip intent-to-purchase tickets in bid boxes at museum shows, make silent bid offers at gallery openings or raise paddles at auctions, where Grelle commands prices that hover in the mid-six figures and often stretch to half a million dollars and beyond. These events, while rewarding for his work, tend to spread him a little thin, which is why this long-gestating solo show is so exciting—he can tell a larger story about himself, his subjects and paintings.

“Every artist wants to think out of the box, and to push themselves, and I certainly see that opportunity here,” Grelle says, adding that artists came before him helped pave the way for those who would follow. “You just always want to grow, and I often look back on people like John Clymer and Tom Lovell and some other guys—Howard Terpning is certainly in that group—you just want to find a point where you can find yourself. When I started I was following Jim Boren, who was doing horses and barn paintings and they really influenced me a lot. And then Melvin Warren’s oils influenced me even more, even though I didn’t know him as well as Jim. As you get going you just want to try on things and see how they fit you. And that’s what I did until I found what I like. You take bits and pieces, whether its Sorolla or whatnot, and you find who you are.”

He specifically mentioned Boren and Warren because they came before him in Bosque County, Texas—the three of them are nearly half of the Bosque Seven—and showed him what was possible within Western art. In fact, as one story goes, a much younger Grelle was working at his father’s service station in Clifton, Texas, and Boren came in with a flat tire that resulted in a spontaneous and informal meeting with a painter who would later become Grelle’s mentor.

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