Artist Donna Howell-Sickles, who specializes in creating striking images of cowgirls set in the American West, will be featured at the Steamboat Art Museum this summer.

Photo by John F. Russell

Artist Donna Howell-Sickles, who specializes in creating striking images of cowgirls set in the American West, will be featured at the Steamboat Art Museum this summer.

Cowgirl art on display at Steamboat Art Museum throughout summer

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— Donna Howell-Sickles doesn’t consider herself a historian, but the cowgirl artist does consider her work a look into an often overlooked part of the American West.

The male role in Western history had been noted time and again. Just watch any spaghetti Western to understand the macho side of Stetsons and cowboy boots.

But for Howell-Sickles, that history also includes cowgirls.

“It seemed like the perfect vehicle,” Howell-Sickles said about her iconic cowgirl drawings. They’re strong. I want to tell about women and the world we live in.”

That world isn’t far removed for the artist.

She grew up on a farm in Texas about 90 minutes north of Dallas. Her family didn’t have a television or a phone. She worked the farm with her father and had to fill downtime with her imagination.

“Your entertainment was your own,” she said. “You had a lot of alone time. Being isolated shaped who I am as an adult.”

But it wasn’t until she was a junior at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, that she found her calling.

She had to take a required art class, and it stuck.

“The lightbulb went off,” she said.

And it seemed like the cowgirl was the perfect way to tell a story. It wasn’t that Howell-Sickles was a women’s rights activist.

“I was in Lubbock,” she said. “You had to look hard and pretty far for a place to burn bras.”

But the cowgirl was iconic in its own right. The image has been used to sell everything from cigarettes to sex.

And somewhere in there, a story could be told.

Her cowgirls are strong and independent but still keep that femininity.

Howell-Sickles’ art has remained fluid and is ever-changing. It has followed the ebbs and flows of what it means to be a women in the world today.

“To be a woman right now in America, it’s the first time ever it seems that we can achieve 100 percent of any of our goals,” she said. “In my pieces, the posture of the figure is more relaxed and subtly stronger than it’s ever been.”

Howell-Sickles also will hold a lecture and workshop from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday. Tickets for that are $20. Later in the day, a dinner will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Those tickets are $75. For tickets and registration, call 970-870-1755.

Howell-Sickles’ art will be on display at the Steamboat Art Museum through mid-October.

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com

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