For close to twenty years, artist Lynda Lanker has traversed the territory that scores of artists have roamed—the American West. But Lanker's eyes and artistry have been firmly fixed on a seldom-heralded group of individuals who have played a vital role in forging the fabric and soul of the American West. Her portraits document a vanishing way of life and honor the matriarchs of the West—hard-working ranchers, mothers, cowgirls, wives, and homemakers.
An exhibit of her work, "Tough by Nature"—on display at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art and the University of Oregon through September 9th—and an accompanying book, Tough by Nature: Portraits of Cowgirls and Ranch Women of the American West, showcase Lanker's passion for the West and the women who have shaped it.
Lanker travelled to thirteen states to sketch, paint, interview, and photograph more than fifty iconic Western women. "I hope the people who see this book and visit the exhibition come away feeling the ruggedness, the beauty, and the cultural tradition of this life," she explains. "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."
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.
All are invited to an opening reception for the exhibit on June 30, 6 to 9 pm, in Barker Gallery at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, 1430 Johnson Lane, Eugene (on UO's campus), and to an exciting schedule of events during the exhibit, including:
Sunday, July 1, 2 pm: Ranch Women and Cowgirls Tell Their Stories, a panel discussion
Saturday, July 7, 2 pm: Artist talk with Lynda Lanker
Wednesday, August 8, 6-11 pm: Museum After Hours country music hoedown and outdoor screening of Cat Ballou
For complete event information, visit the museum's website.
You can purchase a copy of the book at the museum shop or online here.