link to University of Utah Home link to Marriott Library Home
Off Campus Access - Log In

Utah Artists Project Logo

  • Ulysses S. G. Speed

Ulysses S. G. Speed

Grant Speed was born in 1930 in San Angelo, Texas. He is a well-known sculptor of bronzes which re-create the sense of action he noted on his days on the rodeo circuit. He lives in Lindon, Utah.

In 1952, Speed entered Brigham Young University. After graduating from BYU with a degree in animal science, he began teaching elementary school with his spare time dedicated to sculpting. In 1968, he turned to sculpting full time.

Speed is a member of the Cowboy Artists of America who awarded him the Prix de West International in 1994 and Prix de West Purchase Prize in 1994. Among Speed's works are Stampedin' Over a Cutbank (1988), Ridin' Point (1970), and Earnin' His Dollar a Day (1971). 

Biography adapted from Artists of Utah.

Grant Speed is one of the nation's top western sculptors. He developed his interest in the west and "cowboyin'" quite naturally. He was born in San Angelo, Texas, in 1930, and spent his summers and post-high school years working as a cowboy.

There was little evidence in Speed's early years to indicate his life would become that of an artist. He spent his summers learning to ride and to rope 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.

When Speed was 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. He married Sue Collins in 1958 (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.

But all the while he was working, Speed says he was thinking about art. "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 Jimmy Stewart, when he was honored by the university in 1985. Speed created a lifesize horse and rider monument depicting Texas Tech University's Mascot, "The Red Raider," in 1990. 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."

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 Grant 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'!"

Biography courtesy of The Springville Museum of Art.

Newspaper Articles

"Brush with the Bygone West Cowboy Artists Capture Grit, Glory or Wild Frontier." Arizona Republic, October 22, 2000.

"Cowboy Art in Kerrville." Houston Chronicle, May 30, 1993.

"Cowboy Creations Finally Get Their Due." The Deseret News, September 29, 2002.

"Hot as a Pistol Cowboy Artists Continue to Draw After 25 Years." Arizona Republic, October 20, 1990.

Books

Olpin, Robert S., William C. Seifrit, and Vern G. Swanson. Artists of Utah. Salt Lake City, UT: Gibbs Smith Publisher, 1999.

Swanson, Vern G., Robert S. Olpin, and William C. Seifrit. Utah Paintings and Sculpture. Salt Lake City, UT: Gibbs Smith Publishers, 1991.

 Last Modified 4/23/14