TOUGH BY NATURE: Portraits of Cowgirls and Ranch Women of the American West

In 2012, 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. From that date until Jan.17, 2016 the exhibit toured to six additional museums under the auspices of Landau Traveling Exhibitions.

The project began as an idea of Lynda’s friend, artist Elizabeth Brinton, who suggested a collaboration to portray Eastern Oregon. Elizabeth would paint the landscape and Lynda, the people. When Elizabeth was unable to commit to a more extensive travel schedule, 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.
Go to the buy page to see images of lithographs and engravings that can be purchased here.

“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

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