Preview originally published in the October 2019 edition of Western Art Collector, download the printable PDF here.
One part portraits of cowgirls and one part landscapes of the wide- open spaces they call home, Cowgirls and the Western Plains celebrates the women of the West. On view at Ann Korologos Gallery in Basalt, Colorado, from September 25 to October 24, the exhibition features the work of two artists who truly embody the cowgirl spirit—Donna Howell-Sickles and Linda Lillegraven.
“In Cowgirls and the Western Plains, Donna Howell-Sickles captures the can-do, capable ranching women who exude an internal strength, work ethic and vibrant spirit as many of her foremothers did, while Linda Lillegraven’s landscapes showcase the soft light and open spaces over which these women roam,” says gallery owner Ann Korologos. “The predecessors of the women Howell-Sickles paints are the same women that tamed the plains and open land so skillfully depicted in the landscapes of Lillegraven.”
Beckoning you into this world is a cheerful cowgirl waving “enthusiastically, inviting you to join the fun” in Howell- Sickles’ Greetings from Out West.
A familiar face, she is a variation of the woman featured in her 2019 Pendleton Round-Up poster. “I am the first artist who is a woman invited to create a poster for this historic rodeo,” she says.
The artist’s I Can See for 100 Miles.. depicts a young woman looking west, superimposed in front of a profile of a large bison head, also looking west.” She continues, “One of the things I most enjoy about my trips to the Western Plains is the enormous sense of space. That space intensifies the insignificance of my own size and the magnificence of all that I can see and I wanted that contemplative essence and sense of awe to fill this drawing.” Perhaps the woman portrayed is looking out at the clouds in Lillegraven’s Western Skies, a series of panels featuring the clear blue air out West during various times of the day. “They are not necessarily intended to be a set,” Lillegraven explains. “The series is open-ended—but I hope collectors will find that the paintings work well together as a group.”
Or maybe the woman’s bison buddy is one of several depicted in Lillegraven’s Hayden Valley Dawn in Yellowstone National Park. “It’s mid-September. The sun is coming up, and mist is rising from the Yellowstone River in the still air. Bison graze on the valley floor,” she says.
Throughout her work, Lillegraven makes it as clear as a Western sky how much she appreciates these lands.
But, as she explains, “Not everyone sees the beauty of the open High Plains.” She adds, “Even some who live here find the open country boring or intimidating, or lacking in the features a beautiful landscape ‘ought’ to have, such as soaring mountain peaks, trees, etc. But those who love this part of the world in all its windy, uncomfortable splendor love it passionately. I hope they will see my work, and I even hope a few of the others may be convinced that wide, open landscapes are a rare thing of beauty.”