Tough By Nature by Linda Lanker


This 132-page coffee table book 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. Published in 2011 by the Oregon State University Press. 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 SickingMollie Taylor Stevenson, Jr. and Jan  Youren.

From the Publisher, Oregon State University:

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.

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.

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