Tough By Nature Exhibit
May 9 - September 9, 2013

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. 


Off the Wall: Maverick Quilts
January 18 - March 31, 2013

This innovative exhibition from The Quilt Complex is making its debut at the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.

Being independent in thought and action is the hallmark of someone we would label a “maverick,” and is a quality shared by many of our Honorees. This new exhibition underscores that very same quality – in quilts.

Paired alongside a traditional quilt pattern, these “maverick” quilts display an unusual twist on the ordinary, a verve and a gritty individuality rarely found in more studied and self-conscious quilts. On display will be 30 quilts spanning 100 years, from 1850 to 1950.

Quilts1Hexagon ...

Repeated six-sided pieces could be organized in various ways; the most popular being an overall design known as "Grandmother's Flower Garden." Some women had other ideas (occasionally pretty wild) of how to put their hexagons together.





A simple, and among the most elementary of all pierced design, Ninepatch can be set "on the square," "on point" so it looks like a diamond, or - as one ingenious woman did it - continuous and "swirling all about."




Hard Twist: Western Ranch Women - Photographs by Barbara Van Cleve
May 17 - December 31, 2012

The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame is pleased to present “Hard Twist: Western Ranch Women,” an exhibit by Master Photographer Barbara Van Cleve, a 1995 Honoree.

Van Cleve is nationally known for her photographs of the western range, ranchers, rodeos, cowboys and cattle women. Van Cleve’s own heritage is rich with firsthand experience of the cowgirl life. She grew up on her family’s ranch, the Lazy K Bar, founded in 1880 in the Crazy Mountains of Montana. Her parents gave her a camera and home developing kit when she was 11.

“Hard Twist” refers to the old Manila-hemp, tightly twisted lariat rope = hard twisted. The term can also refer to a small, compact, physically strong person with resilience, rather like rawhide, which expands and stretches when wet or shrinks and tightens up when dry but rarely breaks. The ranch women in the photographs of Barbara Van Cleve are the embodiment of “Hard Twist” — tough and resilient, but above all an integral part of ranch life.

Van Cleve captures their strength with stunning beauty and simplicity in the more than 60 black and white photographs.


The Cowgirl Who Became a Justice: Sandra Day O’Connor: A 30th Anniversary Celebration,
October 27, 2011-March 25, 2012

“Before I rode occasionally on the round-up, it had been an all-male domain. Changing it to accommodate a female was probably my first initiation into joining an all-men’s club, something I did more than once in my life.” 

    –O’Connor in Lazy B: Growing Up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest.

Prior to Sandra Day O’Connor, no other female in the United States had been given as heavy and as public a yoke to carry in representing women, the West and in turn the best interests of the nation.

The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame proudly celebrates 2002 Hall of Fame Honoree Sandra Day O’Connor, on the 30th anniversary of her appointment to the United States Supreme Court.  Come see this cowgirl’s connections between life on the ranch . . . and life on the bench.

No Glitz, No Glory
May 19-September 25, 2011

The West, and particularly Texas, thrives on individualism. And, by extension the way we dress ourselves has become a calling card for the west. Rhinestone chaps? Exaggerated fringe? Metallic boots? 12 foot trains and 40 pound dresses? Why, yes!

Come see a whole other Wild West May 19 as the National Cowgirl Museum pulls out some dazzling clothing and tack from our vault!

Photograph courtesy of Rhonda Hole

Apron Chronicles: A Patchwork of American Recollections,
January 7-April 3, 2011

Apron Chronicles: A Patchwork of American Recollections is America’s most nostalgic, thought provoking and generational friendly traveling exhibition. The exhibit is the American experience as seen and read through 46 photographs, text in story form and 155 vintage aprons.

Curator EllynAnne Geisel has utilized the apron as a symbol immediately recognized by everyone to create an exhibit that is ultimately more about life than fabric.

The diverse storytellers include a 111-year-old mother and her only child, a Holocaust survivor, a biology professor from Mali, Africa, and a preteen and her grandmother. Their stories explore the people behind the aprons and give life to the fabric and the exhibit.

Author and apron curator EllynAnne is the voice behind the exhibit. Award-winning photographer Kristina Loggia has preserved the storytellers’ images in an environmental style that complements the unadorned honesty of their recollections.

Like the oral histories, the portraits’ strength is their directness and lack of pretension.

Apron Chronicles national recognition includes Time magazine, The New York Times, CBS Sunday Morning and NPR’s Weekend Edition.

The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame was recently awarded a mini-grant of $1,500 from the Humanities Texas to support the forthcoming exhibit “The Apron Chronicles” and related programming

Cowgirl Christmas Tree Celebration,
December 10-26, 2010 

The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame will have a Christmas Tree exhibit from December 10 to December 31. These trees are thematic and reflect the five categories of Honorees in the Hall of Fame: artists and writers, champions and competitive performers, entertainers, ranchers (stewards of the land and livestock) and trailblazers and pioneers. Additionally – local schools are also decorating trees with patriotic, holiday, and western themes. There will be interactive crafts for children to make their own ornaments and there will be a reading corner with holiday books. The fee is the regular museum admittance fee.

Sixth Annual Heart of the West Art Exhibition and Sale,
October 1-December 1, 2010

The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame will host its sixth annual Heart of the West Art Exhibition and Sale October 1-December 1, 2010.

Established in 2004 to honor women who embody the Western spirit and express their passion for the American West through art, the Heart of the West Art Exhibition and Sale is the premiere all-female Western art show and sale in the country, and features themes of the West as captured through bronze, sculpture, oil, watercolor, pencil and other fine art media. The event will feature 49 outstanding artists including 2003 Hall of Fame Honoree, Glenna Goodacre, 2007 Hall of Fame Honoree, Donna Howell-Sickles, and 2009 Hall of Fame Honoree, Deborah Copenhaver Fellows.  New artists for 2010 include Shelley Muzylowski Allen, Mary Buchholz, Jenny Forge-Schmalstieg, Moni Heil, Barbara Ivey, Jan Mapes and Deborah Oropallo.

“Through this exhibition, we want to recognize the contributions of contemporary women in the arts; women who interpret the American West through a variety of viewpoints, styles and media,” said Pat Riley, executive director of the National Cowgirl Museum & Hall of Fame. “These women have contributed to the fabric of American culture and their insights and perspectives bring new life to the art of the West.”

Georgia O’Keeffe and the Far Away: Nature and Image,
February 12- September 6, 2010

Through our partnership with the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, NM, we are proud to present a groundbreaking exhibition featuring one of the most famous artists of the 20th century: 1991 Cowgirl Hall of Fame Honoree Georgia O’Keeffe.

O’Keeffe’s connection to the American West and her reputation at the forefront of American modernism are essential to the premise of this exhibition and pertinent to her induction into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame. She identified herself with the ideals of the West- rugged individuality, fierce courage and a quest for the untamed. Nowhere is this more evident than through her arduous camping trips to paint the landscape of northern New Mexico, a place she romantically referred to as “the faraway.”

This 3,000 square foot exhibit, housed in the lower gallery of the Museum, includes several of O’Keeffe’s paintings on loan from museums and private collectors from around the country. Also included are her camping gear, which has never before been displayed to the public; numerous sketches made by the artist while camping and hiking in northern New Mexico; selected pieces of her clothing, including the black hat familiar to her many fans; multiple photos taken of her while camping; and many other images documenting her affinity with the West.

Our guest curator, Dr. Valerie Ann Leeds, is a nationally known scholar of American Modernism. She has studied O’Keeffe’s correspondence at the Beinecke Library at Yale, as well as the libraries of the Amon Carter and Georgia O’Keeffe museums. The exhibit design is by Randy Webster, Vice President of Emerald Palms Design Group, who was also the lead designer of the new galleries in the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History and the Ride: A Global Adventure exhibit displayed at the National Cowgirl Museum in summer 2006.

The exhibition begins with the artist’s early camping years as a young teacher in Virginia. Visitors can then view her work in New Mexico along with photos taken by Ansel Adams, who spent several trips camping with O’Keeffe. After viewing selected artwork on loan from the Amon Carter and the Georgia O’Keeffe Museums, you can explore a camping location that O’Keeffe affectionately called “The Black Place.” From there, you’ll see the “White Place,” a remote location near Abiquiu, NM, as well as a sketchbook by O’Keeffe.

“O’Keeffe’s life embodied those qualities that go into the word cowgirl,” says Director of Exhibits and Education Diana Vela. “She dedicated her life to something she valued, and in the way she absorbed the natural elements in northern New  Mexico, she exemplified those same qualities that made the West and defined our women.”

Going To Texas: Five Centuries of Texas Maps,
November 6, 2009-January 3, 2010

This special exhibition, put together through a partnership between the Center for Texas Studies at Texas Christian University and the Museum of the Big Bend at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, showcased approximately 60 authentic maps from the collection of Yana and Marty Davis. These rare maps ranged from early 16th-century New Spain through the Republic of Texas and statehood and into the 21st century.