Portraits Dispel Stereotype of the Cowgirl and Ranch Woman
“Tough by Nature, Portraits of Cowgirls and Ranch Women of the American West” opens Thursday, May 9, and runs through Monday, September 9, 2013, at the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, 1720 Gendy Street in the Cultural District.
The exhibition showcases 65 of Lynda Lanker's drawings, paintings, works on paper, and prints, which document a vanishing way of life that affirmed the role of women in the economy and ecology of the American West. Her portraits reveal the ruggedness, beauty, and cultural tradition of ranch life and the resilience, character, and quiet strength of the extraordinary women who gain their sustenance and livelihood from the land.
Influenced by Andrew Wyeth and Thomas Hart Benton, she used a variety of media — pencil and charcoal, oil pastel, egg tempura, plate and stone lithography, engraving, and dry point — to capture the spirit of these women who gain their sustenance and livelihood from the land.
“I didn’t go out there to prove that their lives were so different from those of the women I knew or the cowboys we thought we knew; I started to discover that they were,” Lanker said. “There were at least as many of the female cowhands and ranchers who were doing the same work as the men but they had mainly been portrayed as rodeo queens in tight satin shirts with lots of sequins and fancy boots. I wanted to go deeper and show the true women instead of the stereotype. I hope people come away from the exhibition feeling the ruggedness, the beauty, and the cultural tradition of this life, for this ranch life, long romanticized, is harsh and makes one tough by nature. What these women and their families are doing is admirable. They have made an indelible imprint on the American landscape.”
“These inspiring portraits of these extraordinary women reveal their strong sense of self-reliance and confidence,” said Pat Riley, executive director of the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. “They personify our mission to honor the women whose lives exemplify the courage, resilience, and independence that helped shape the American West.”
Eight of the women featured in the exhibition are Honorees in the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame: Reba Perry Blakely, Linda Mitchell Davis, Ruby Gobble, Gretchen Sammis, Jonnie Jonckowski, Georgie Sicking, Mollie Taylor Stevenson, Jr. and Jan Youren.
Nine of the 49 women featured in the exhibition are from Texas (Alpine, Boyd, Burkburnett, Fort Worth, Munday, and Seymour), and the others are from Ariz., Calif., Colo., Hawaii, Mont., Nev., N.M., Ore., Utah, Wash., and Wyo.
Accompanying the exhibition is the 132-page coffee table book of the same name, which tells the stories of these remarkable women in their own words. American novelist, essayist, and screenwriter Larry McMurtry wrote the book's foreword; Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a 2002 Honoree in the Cowgirl Hall of Fame, wrote the introduction; and celebrated poet Maya Angelou wrote the afterword. The book was made possible by The Ford Family Foundation and other generous donors. Published in 2011 by the Oregon State University Press, the book will be available in the Cowgirl museum’s gift shop.
The exhibition was organized by the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon in Eugene, where it premiered in the fall 2012. It comes to the Cowgirl museum from the Oregon Historical Society, Portland, Ore. Landau Traveling Exhibitions of Los Angeles is coordinating the tour of the exhibition.
Sponsors of the exhibition at the Cowgirl museum are Fifth Avenue Foundation; Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities; National Barrel Horse Association; National Cutting Horse Association; and Reata restaurant.