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Tough by Nature

Portraits of Cowgirls and Ranch Women of the American West

Lynda Lanker

Published by the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, University of Oregon

Foreword by Larry McMurtry. Introduction by Sandra Day O'Connor. Afterword by Maya Angelou.

13 × 11 inches. Color and B&W artwork. 132 pages.

2012. ISBN 978-0-87114-099-9. Hardcover, $45.00.

For close to twenty years, Lynda Lanker has been immersed in a vast and unprecedented artistic undertaking. While, historically, scores of artists have roamed the West, painting and drawing its monumental landscapes, Lanker has traversed that same territory, but her eyes and artistry have been firmly fixed elsewhere—on a seldom-heralded group of individuals who have, in no small way, played a vital role in forging the fabric and soul of the American West.

Her search for ranch women and cowgirls across the western United States has taken her thousands of miles to ranches and homes in thirteen states. What she discovered underscores the timeliness and importance of her creative accomplishment, for these women and their way of life are quickly disappearing. The matriarchs of the West—those women who played the essential roles of hard-working ranchers, mothers, cowgirls, wives, and homemakers—are simply vanishing. Mega-corporations and urban encroachment are replacing their family farms and ranches and, in the process, are changing the face and humanity of the West forever.

Influenced by Andrew Wyeth and Thomas Hart Benton, Lanker uses a variety of media—pencil and charcoal, oil pastel, egg tempera, plate and stone lithography, engraving and drypoint—to capture the spirit of her women. Just as the Farm Security Administration’s photographic chronicles of the Great Depression have fixed that time and its hardships in our collective memory, Lanker’s portraits, accompanied by her interviews with the forty-nine women featured in the book, will forever honor the unsung heroines of the West.


Member of AAUP