Tough by Nature: Portraits of Cowgirls and Ranch Women of the American West exhibition debuts at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art

The exhibition, by Eugene artist Lynda Lanker, features portraits and stories from 49 women from 13 states

EUGENE, Ore. -- (March 26, 2012) – “Tough By Nature: Portraits of Cowgirls and Ranch Women of the American West,” an exhibition by Lynda Lanker,  opens this summer at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon. The public is invited to a free opening reception on June 30 from 6 to 9 p.m. The exhibition will remain on view through September 9, 2012.

“Tough By Nature” showcases Lynda Lanker’s passion for the American West and the women who have shaped it. Once dominated by ranches and agriculture, the West has been tamed and transformed through settlement and corporate development. This special exhibition honors the spirit and stories of ranch women and cowgirls who gain their sustenance and livelihood from the land. Though her work, Lanker documents a vanishing way of life that affirmed the role of women in the economy and ecology of the West. Following its presentation at the JSMA, the exhibition will travel to other venues under the auspices of Landau Traveling Exhibitions.

“Lynda Lanker is an immensely talented and versatile artist,” says museum executive director and exhibition curator Jill Hartz.  “One of the great achievements of this exhibition is the range of media Lynda uses to capture the spirit of her women.”  

Featured in the exhibition are charcoal and graphite drawings as well as stone and plate lithographs, acrylics, oil pastels, and egg tempera.

“In the studio, the challenge was how to best represent these exceptional women to the public through my art” explains Lanker. “I executed a number of pieces using a mixed media of oil pastel over watercolor or acrylic. But when I got to the portrait of New Mexico cowgirl Mary Caldwell, the media didn’t evoke who she was. So I made my first egg tempera, and there was Mary, right in front of me.”

Over nineteen years, Lanker traveled to 13 Western states, sketching, painting, interviewing and photographing more than 50 iconic Western women. The exhibition represents the culmination of a 19-year-long labor of love by Lanker, who is known in the Pacific Northwest as a consummate portrait painter. Her commissioned portraits include, among many others, five presidential portraits for the University of Oregon.

“I undertook this project because the character of these women is right there on the surface,” says Lanker. “Nothing to chip away. Just right there ready for me to express on paper or canvas or whatever.”

Born May 5, 1943, in Kansas City, Missouri, Lynda Lanker grew up in Wichita, Kansas, where she attended Wichita State University and received her bachelor’s degree in art education. In the mid-1980s her watercolors were recognized by Millard Sheets, a renowned artist of the California School, who awarded Lanker the sweepstakes prize in a competition of watercolor portraits. He subsequently arranged solo shows for the artist, generating sales of her work and the teaching of workshops.

The exhibition is accompanied by a hard-cover fully illustrated catalog, which includes contributions by Larry McMurtry, Sandra Day O’Connor and Maya Angelou, as well as an artist’s statement.  Featuring portraits and interviews with 49 of the women Lanker visited, the publication, which is made possible by The Ford Family Foundation and private donors, is distributed by Oregon State University Press. It will be available in the museum’s shop beginning June 30, at a price of $39.95.

About the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art
The University of Oregon's Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art is a premier Pacific Northwest visual arts center for exhibitions and collections of historic and contemporary art based in a major university setting. The mission of the museum is to enhance the University of Oregon’s academic mission and to further the appreciation and enjoyment of the visual arts for the general public.  The JSMA features significant collections galleries devoted to art from China, Japan, Korea, America and elsewhere as well as changing special exhibition galleries.  The JSMA is one of six museums in Oregon accredited by the American Association of Museums.

The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art is located on the University of Oregon campus at 1430 Johnson Lane. Museum hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays through Sundays. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for senior citizens. Free admission is given to ages 18 and under, JSMA members, college students with ID, and University of Oregon faculty, staff and students. For information, contact the JSMA, 541-346-3027.

About the University of Oregon
The University of Oregon is among the 108 institutions chosen from 4,633 U.S. universities for top-tier designation of "Very High Research Activity" in the 2010 Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The UO also is one of two Pacific Northwest members of the Association of American Universities.

Contact: Debbie Williamson Smith, 541-346-0942,
Links: Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art,
Lynda Lanker,