The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame’s exhibition "Hard Twist: Western Ranch Women" from Honoree Barbara Van Cleve will be on display at the CFD Old West Museum. This beautiful exhibit that includes over 62 black and white photographs depicting the tough and resilient side of ranch women of the American West, will be on display from May 28th - July 9th, 2021. Adults $12, Seniors/Military $11, Children 6-12 $6, Children Under 6 FREE and Museum Members FREE. Tickets may be purchased in advance online.
Inspired by her mother, Van Cleve identified the lack of published photographs of women ranchers. She spent much of 1986-1994 traveling the Rocky Mountain West on horseback, gathering images and interviews from women of the West in their natural elements – out on the range, ranch or at rodeos. The photos in the exhibit feature 29 ranch women, including five Cowgirl Honorees: Jan Youren, Ruby Gobble, Gretchen Sammis, Bobby Brooks Kramer, Fern Sawyer and Linda Mitchell Davis. Visitors will enjoy a guided tour of the exhibit available on a special mobile website and hear the remarkable stories behind several of the photographs directly from Van Cleve.
From her travels, Van Cleve created the book titled Hard Twist: Western Ranch Women in 1995, from which the exhibition was created. The term “Hard Twist” refers to the old manila hemp rope that is tightly twisted. Van Cleve recognized that the term can also refer to a small, compact, physically strong person that rarely breaks – much like women of the West.
“We are thrilled to have Barbara Van Cleve’s Hard Twist exhibition in the Museum’s permanent collection and the ability to share it with other museums,” said Dr. Diana Vela, National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame associate executive director. “The photographs of ranch women, captured during ordinary moments in their day, are really quite extraordinary in their ability to illustrate personal experiences in the midst of some rather difficult ranch tasks.”
Van Cleve is a Museum Honoree and nationally known for her photographs of Western landscapes, ranchers, cowboys and cattle women. Her heritage is rich with firsthand experience of the cowgirl life. She grew up on her family’s ranch, the Lazy K Bar, founded in 1880 in the Crazy Mountains of Montana.
Her first camera was a “Brownie Box,” given to her at age 11 along with a developing kit, and her childhood was spent working, experiencing life on the ranch in the American West and cultivating her interest in photography. She taught English Literature and photography at DePaul University in Chicago and then became the youngest Dean of Women in the United States. She retired from academia in 1980 to pursue photography full time and had her first major exhibition in the fall of 1985. Her work can be found in public and private collections all over the world.