On April 25, the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum had a reception to celebrate the museum wide gallery opening dedicated to Women in the West.
There are six galleries dedicated to this exhibit, including Gems of the Plains, and Girls of the Golden West: Photography from the Permanent collection. These two exhibits are on the first floor of the PPHM.
“It’s awesome, the art they have displayed is incredible,” Ronda Sedgwich Stearns, an attendee of the event, said. “People would never have left the eastern shore if it weren’t for the spirit of the western woman.”
The four other exhibits are on the second floor of the museum. They are American Indian Art from the Susan Janney Allen Collection, and High Fashion on the High Plains. The other two are Olive Vandruff: Artist of the American West, and Madonnas of the Prairie: Depictions of Women in the American West. Curators gave gallery talks in all six exhibits.
“The turnout is exemplary, but I’m not surprised,” Michael Grauer, Associate Director for Curatorial Affairs/ Curator of art and Western Heritage, said. “We have people here from all over the country.”
Approximately 160 people attended Friday’s reception. They were entertained by The Buckarettes, an all female group of singers. All of the exhibits with the exception of Madonnas of the Prairie are open until February 2015. The Madonnas of the Prairie exhibit closes in August 2014. A new art exhibit will open in September 2014 with the art of Anna Keener, a southwest regionalist.
“I grew up on a farm and some of the pictures we saw I know about,” Arzella Kinsey, a resident of Canyon, said. “It is the history of the business of living. I enjoy seeing things that take me back to my childhood.”
These exhibits not only inspired memories, but they impacted last Tuesday’s Remnant Trust lecture that Dr. Bonnie MacDonald gave on Willa Cather’s My Antonia. MacDonald said that the Madonnas of the Prairie exhibit influenced her.
“[The Madonnas of the Prairie exhibit] is profound because it puts classical and biblical motifs into western history,” MacDonald said. “It shows us accurately or inaccurately how we explained ourselves in a very complex time in American history.”
Dr. MacDonald said that one of the things that caught her attention in the pieces from the Madonnas collection were the different aspects that western artists used to give western women halos. In many of the paintings, the western woman is holding a child and sometimes it is the cover from a covered wagon giving her a halo or the light shining between the blades of a windmill.
Many of the pieces on display have been lent to the PPHM from private collections. One gentleman loaned seven pieces that are being exhibited in the Madonnas of the Prairie collection.