She Could Ride A Horse With The Best of Them (2013-2014)
America, a country birthed on liberty and justice, was coddled and raised on folkloric legends. Its history is littered with fictional narratives that have become so second nature, they are often mistaken as fact. The characters of these legends are heroes, with the personality traits that modern day Americans strive to incorporate into their own lives.
One of these figures, the Cowboy, was once a symbol of American growth and progress. To this day, the Cowboy embodies the epitome of American masculinity. Once a real person, the character of the Cowboy was taken out of historical context and blown up to become a larger than life figure. He has the abilities of a super hero, but the heart of a working stiff. He is connected to the earth and the environment. He is the man who is said to be able to take the most intense beating but will only wince when his wounds are seen to by a gentle woman. He answers to no one. He is his own man.
But many forget that the move West was forged not only by this hardened, working bodied men. There were women who worked along side them, working as their equals. For some, they were wives and mothers who followed their men out to raise families on the new frontiers. They could ride horses, herd cattle and shoot guns like the men, but were expected to also have dinner on the table and the children in bed. For others, the West provided new opportunities of freedom. Many women in the Wild West towns were prostitutes, some were outlaws that rivaled the male criminals they rode alongside.
Though my recent collage work has focused on the idea of masculinity through the image of the Cowboy, I have branched off to create works examining the roles of women in these male dominated environments. It also looks at the contemporary sexual fetishization of women taking on male roles and using phallic symbols such guns. These women were simultaneously admired and criticized for being equivelent to their male counterparts. They were allowed this freedom because the Wild West was unchartered territory, giving women a space in which they could prove themselves based on their abilities rather than their gender.