Nancy Davidson: Let'er Buck
Experience the sights, sounds, smells, and spectacle of the rodeo in an exhibition devoted to an icon of American culture…the cowgirl.
Artist Nancy Davidson brings feminist and popular culture themes to the forefront through colorful sculptures, photographs, videos, and sound. At the heart of the exhibition is a giant inflatable sculpture, Dustup, a suggestive and comically absurd “super-sized” tribute to the women of the Old West and critique of our culture’s fascination with everything big. Her larger-than-life cowgirl evokes monumental roadside attractions, carnivals, and tall tales.
Growing up in the 1950s, Davidson was inspired by the “can-do” spirit of the cowgirls she saw in Hollywood movies and musicals. Characters such as Doris Day’s Calamity Jane, Butty Hutton’s Annie Oakley, and the gun-slinging Joan Crawford in Johnny Guitar stood in stark contrast to the conventional the stay-at-home wife. They were individuals, able to transgress what was deemed acceptable for women. Rowdy and unruly, they were more than equal to men – yet sexy and glamorous, no matter the situation.
Davidson celebrates the glamour of the Rhinestone Cowgirl while acknowledging the hard-knock lives of real women in rodeo with a video capturing 62-year-old Jan Youren’s final bucking bronco ride after a 47-year career and a sound piece with anecdotes from real life cowgirls. As an artist living in New York City, Davidson had no direct connection to cowgirl culture until a grant from Creative Capital enabled her to travel around the American West and experience it firsthand. This unique body of work is the result of her exploration of the myth and reality of the cowgirl, along with a book to be released in the spring.