What: Exhibition of “Tough by Nature: Portraits of Cowgirls and Ranch Women of the American West”
By: Artist Lynda Lanker
When: Oct. 18, 2013 – Jan. 19, 2014
Where: Turtle Bay Recreation Park, Redding, California
About Tough by Nature:
“I undertook this project because the character of these women is right there on the surface, more so than somebody who’s got layers and layers of urban culture.” – Lynda Lanker, artist
In 2012, fine artist Lynda Lanker launched “Tough by Nature,” a series of portraits of women ranchers and cowgirls from the American West. A 19-year project, she traveled the western United States to interview 49 women and capture their spirit through portraiture. As the American West undergoes transition and transformation, Lynda’s work preserves the histories of these contemporary Western heroines.
The book “Tough by Nature” was published by the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art in Eugene, Oregon, and an exhibition of the same name was on view at the museum from July 1 – Sept. 9, 2012. The exhibit is now touring at other museums through Landau Traveling Exhibitions.
The project began as an idea of Lynda’s artist friend, Elizabeth Brinton, who suggested a collaboration to portray Eastern Oregon. Elizabeth would paint the landscape and Lynda, the people. Elizabeth was unable to commit to the extensive travel schedule, so Lynda pursued the project on her own and extended it to include most of the American West. Throughout the project, Lynda was encouraged and advised by her late-husband, photographer Brian Lanker.
Lynda’s process included on-site photographs, sketches and interviews. For the portraits, she experimented with a variety of mediums, choosing the technique she felt best captured the subject’s character. The 49 portraits range in medium from charcoal, oil pastel, acrylic and egg tempera, to plate and stone lithography and drypoint engraving.
Visit lyndalanker.com to see images of lithographs that can be purchased, view the exhibition schedule, or to order a copy of the book. More information about scheduling the exhibit can be found at www.a-r-t.com/cowgirl.
“This 19-year sojourn has been almost like a second childhood for me, sitting, listening, and watching these women. I learned from them, and they changed me … the resilience, character, and quiet strength of these extraordinary women will be with me forever.” – Lynda Lanker.
Artist’s statement: “In the studio, my exciting challenge is how to best represent an individual to the public through my art. I executed a number of paintings for “Tough by Nature” using a mixed media of oil pastel over watercolor. But when I started the portrait of New Mexico rancher Mary Caldwell, that medium didn’t evoke who she was. I tried a couple of other art materials, without success. At last, I decided to try painting with egg tempera and finally, there was Mary, right in front of me.
These individuals make good subjects because the character of the women is on the surface. No veneer of style or barrier of ego to chip away. Just right there, ready for expression in ink, paint or charcoal.”
Media: Pencil and charcoal, acrylic, egg tempera, plate and stone lithography, drypoint engraving.
Influence: Andrew Wyeth and Thomas Hart Benton
Biography: A fine artist based in Eugene, Oregon, Lynda Lanker was born in 1943 in Kansas City, Missouri. Raised in Wichita, Kansas, she attended Wichita State University and majored in painting and earned a bachelor’s degree in art education.
With a love of drawing since childhood, she was inspired to become an artist when she sat for a portrait at the age of 11. After earning her degree, she taught middle school art, but rarely painted on her own time.
In 1974, she married Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Brian Lanker. Lynda was able to concentrate on portraiture after the couple moved to Eugene, Oregon for Brian to become director of graphics at The Register-Guard.
Lynda’s reputation as a portrait painter grew from the ’70s through the ’90s. Renowned watercolor artist Millard Sheets recognized her watercolors in the mid-1980s, subsequently resulting in solo shows and workshops. Her commissioned portraits include five presidential portraits for the University of Oregon.
She spent nearly two decades completing “Tough by Nature,” a book and touring exhibit, which is a series of 49 portraits of women ranchers and cowgirls in the American West. Lithographs from “Tough by Nature” are available for purchase.
Lynda’s current work includes a stone lithography portrait of Dr. Maya Angelou, as well as the late Oregon Supreme Court Justice Betty Roberts.
Lynda is mother to two daughters and one son. (Editor’s note: Lynda has a north state connection. She is sister to Celeste White of Redding.)
– From press release