Art of the Cowgirl is this week. Starting Friday and going through Sunday, Corona Ranch in Phoenix will be home to amazing cowgirl clinicians and master artists. We’ve already highlighted the weekend’s clinicians, and we can’t forget the master artists.
Art of the Cowgirl 2020’s master artists come from diverse backgrounds, but all share a love for the West and the cowgirl spirit. At Art of the Cowgirl 2020, they’ll share their successes, failures, and artistry.
Barbara Van Cleve
Barbara Van Cleve earned a MA in English Literature at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, was a Dean of Women at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois, and taught English Literature and later, photography, for over 25 winters at De Paul University, Loyola University and Mundelein College, all in the Chicago area. At the same time photography continued to be a passionate avocation. In her free time, she worked for Rand McNally as a textbook photographer and also established her own stock photography agency. The long summers were usually spent on the family ranch in Montana.
She moved to Santa Fe in late 1980 to concentrate on photography full time and had her first major exhibition in the fall of 1985. Since that time, she has had over 60 one-person shows and has been in over 100 group shows. Her work is in public and private collections in the United States as well as internationally. Her photography has been published in Roughstock Sonnets (with poetry by Paul Zarzyski), Way Out West, and Cowboys: A horseback Heritage. KOAT-TV, an ABC affiliate in Albuquerque, New Mexico produced and aired a thirty-minute video documentary, “Barbara Van Cleve: Capturing Grace”, in 1993. In the Fall, 1995 her book, Hard Twist: Western Ranch Women was published by the Museum of New Mexico Press, and she was inducted into the Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas. All This Way for the Short Ride (with poet Paul Zarzyski) was published by the Museum of New Mexico Press in 1997. Her newest project is a book Holding the Reins written by Mark Talbert and illustrated with her photographs about ranch girls. It was published by Harper Collins in February 2003. She moved back to Big Timber, Montana, her hometown, where she has her studio and is close to the family ranch.
Master Saddle Maker
Nancy Martiny is a second generation leatherworker and fourth generation rancher from Idaho. Following in the footsteps of her father, who made purses, belts, and wallets for friends and family (and eventually built himself a saddle), Nancy learned the basics of carving leather from him while in high school. She was soon making belts for friends, and a life-long passion was born.
In 1987, she received two saddle trees as a gift from her husband, and had the great honor of receiving lessons from Master Saddlemaker Dale Harwood. Armed with a notebook, she would visit Dale’s shop over the course of several months to observe his work and receive guidance from the Master. After building the first saddle for herself, and the next one for her kids, she started getting orders from friends, and a thirty year career began.
Sandy Collier has the unique distinction of being the first and only woman to win the National Reined Cowhorse Snaffle Bit Futurity. She is a multiple NRCHA and AQHA World Champion, and was reserve limit/intermediate open futurity champion at the 1997 NRHA Reining Futurity.
She is an NRCHA AAA and AQHA judge and has judged the prestigious NRCHA and AQHA World shows.
In 2012, Sandy was inducted into The Cowgirl Hall of Fame. And, in 2013, The NRCHA honored her by inducting her into the NRCHA Hall of Fame. She has also been the recipient of the Monty Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award. According to Sandy, her lifelong passion for horses began “when my cells started to divide”. She spent the first third of her career as a veteran three-day eventer on the East coast, and then turned her focus to reiners and cowhorses.
Master Fine Artist
Preserving the West through her work and a passion for the equine define artist Shannon Lawlor. Her connection to the land, people, horses and lifestyle of the modern West is palatable in the essence of her work – portrayed through her brush strokes – whether in the soft intensity of an eye of a working ranch horse, or the exquisite detail of a hackamore.
Growing up on the edge of the Northern Great Plains – a region known for extensive cattle ranching and cowboying – Lawlor has been drawing since the age of five, and it’s a passion that hasn’t waned since. Before becoming a full-time artist, her life was spent in the saddle, around the animals she would one day be renowned for depicting in her art, considering them “one of the true stewards of the West.” Purposeful horsemanship is important to her, as is the authenticity of gear – a nuance not lost on her collectors, for her work is known for its “correctness” in detail.
If it was the pure enjoyment of drawing and painting horses that propelled her into pursuing the life of an artist fulltime, it is her continued deep sense of pride in knowing the West is her lifestyle and her people, that gives her a sense of obligation to authentically preserve it. Ultimately it is her wide range of collectors who benefit, with the opportunity and gratitude to feel that sense of her love for the West, and are inspired to collect her work. “Many people in the lifestyle of the West collect my work, and those who are removed from it, yet fully appreciate the West – also collect it,” says Lawlor.
Guest Master Hat Maker
The story of Montana Mad Hatters began with Kirkpatrick Custom Hatters in the small town of Wisdom Montana. Sheila Kirkpatrick opened the doors in 1983, shortly after her daughter Ericka was born. That didn’t slow Sheila down one bit. She did what most women of the West have had to do—take their youngins’ with them while they worked. Ericka grew up in the hat shop and learned the art of hat making from the best. Sheila was inducted into National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1992 for her skill and creativity in the hat world.
Sheila has made hats for the working cowboy as well as celebrities such as Cheryl Ladd (Chris Munroe on Charlie’s Angels), Tim Scott (Pea Eye on Lonesome Dove), country-western singer Hank Williams Jr., and T.V. personality Willard Scott, to name a few. The state of Montana even commissioned Sheila to build a hat for the 41st U.S. President George H.W. Bush.
After 15 years of building Kirkpatrick Hatters, Sheila decided to sell her business and help full-time on the ranch. However, hat making kept calling her back and Montana Mad Hatters was born, making its home in Twin Bridges, Montana, in the heart of the Ruby Valley. Ericka has worked alongside Sheila, gaining the knowledge, experience and most importantly, the passion for making hats. After 40 years, Sheila decided to hand the reins to Ericka, who continues the legacy of integrity and quality of craftsmanship in every hat.
Master Braider & Horse Hair Hitcher
Teresa Black of Plush, Oregon, is a rawhide braider and horse hair hitcher and Art of the Cowgirl Master Artist for 2018-2019. Originally exposed to leather work, Teresa discovered rawhide braiding in 2000 when she met Bill Black, renowned western gear maker. They were married 2001, and soon after, Bill began teaching Teresa the art of braiding a reata and she has been braiding ever since. Their daughter, Montana, was born in 2004 and is also starting to braid and do leather work. Teresa has established herself as a talented horsewoman, artist and maker in the western industry.
Guest Master Silversmith
John Mincer is a 4th generation rancher who has ranched his whole life. John has been a lifelong resident of Nevada and the Great Basin region. He first learned engraving at a cow camp on the Stillwater Ranch in Nevada 37 years ago. Chet Smith taught him most of what he needed to send him on his was as a silversmith and engraver. He later learned to build bits and spurs from Dan Price and was influenced by Hugh Weaver, but refining the art and developing his own style he credits to master engraver Franz Marktl.
When John started, he just wanted it to be a hobby, but when he made pieces he started making money right away and transitioned to full time all while running 350 head of cows and operating a backhoe business. When the recession hit, his backhoe business slowed down and he had more time to devote to his silver shop. In 2005 he launched his Joel Henry Hardware line, where he designed and hand engraved each master, having them all cast in the U.S.A. John hand finishes each piece making it a one of a kind hardware for the working cowboy, saddle makers, and leather crafters. John and his wife Kristen reside in Fallon, NV on a small ranch where they raise cattle and sheep and do some farming.
A year of planning and preparation comes down to January 24-26, 2020 at Corona Ranch in Phoenix, Arizona. Haven’t gotten your tickets yet? Visit artofthecowgirl.com to purchase.