FWA Features Buck McCain at March 7, 2023 First Tuesday   

The Creation of MO Club’s “THE COWBOY” Bronze: Memories and Stories                    

Buck McCain

In 1996, Buck McCain’s studio was located on Toole Avenue across the street from the old Mountain Oyster Club in downtown Tucson. The MO Club inspired Buck to sculpt a life-size cowboy–not from the 1800s– but the way Buck remembered cowboys from his childhood. Buck will talk about how he took that idea from his imagination to the final bronze, first creating a clay sculpture using an MO Club bartender as a model for the figure.

“THE COWBOY,” standing 6’8″ high, depicts a working cowboy with close attention to details of dress and gear. The bronze sculpture stands at the entrance of the Mountain Oyster Club in Tucson, the Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs, CO, and the Stark Western Museum in Orange, TX. Other locations include the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville, GA; Colossal Cave Mountain Park in Tucson; the Foss Company in Golden, CO; as well as other museums, corporations, and private collections. The edition of 35 bronzes is now sold out.

In our YouTube video, Buck talks about his fun exploits involved with the MO Club obtaining the “THE COWBOY” including the MO Club’s 50th Anniversary fundraiser for the bronze’s purchase and the people who made it happen. 

Painter and sculptor Buck McCain was raised on the old McCain Ranch in southern California. It was a traditional ranch dating back to the days of buggies and mule-drawn wagons. The old ranch was headquartered in the mountains and lacked electricity, a telephone, and good roads. McCain was home-schooled by his mother during part of his elementary school years. Upon graduation from high school, McCain realized that he needed to further his education or he would spend the rest of his life cattle ranching. While attending the University of San Diego and the Imperial Valley Junior College near El Centro, he majored in pre-med and philosophy. McCain took an art course to balance out his science course work. His art teacher, Juanita Lowe, encouraged McCain to pursue a career in art. The artist found further encouragement when he sold his first painting for $35 at the county fair.

McCain supplemented his meager cowboy salary by selling his paintings to hotels. Eventually Buck left ranch work and went to work for Aaron Brothers in Los Angeles.

Buck McCain’s “THE COWBOY”

There he painted pictures to be sold in department stores throughout the United States. In the late 1960s, Buck McCain, who is mostly self-taught, went to Europe for a year of independent study. Upon his return to America, McCain settled in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 1976, McCain attempted sculpture on the suggestion of Arizona sculptor and painter Ernie Berke. After Berke walked him through the process, McCain knew he really wanted to sculpt. He has created several monumental bronzes.

He says in his mission statement: “In sculpting you do not get to paint the landscape or the atmosphere around your subject. You cannot rely on the trick of color, nor can you control the lighting. It is just about form, light and shadow, negative and positive space. In sculpture, you are expressing one second frozen in time.”