Independent Spirits brings to vivid life the West as seen through the eyes of women painters from 1890 to the end of World War II. Expert scholars and curators identify long-lost talent and reveal how these women were formidable cultural innovators as well as agitators for the rights of artists and women during a period of extraordinary development.
Abundantly illustrated, with over one-hundred color plates, this book is a rich compendium of Western art by women, including those of Native American, African, Mexican, and Asian descent. The essays examine the many economic, social, and political forces that shaped this art over years of pivotal change. The West's dynamic growth altered the role of women, often allowing new avenues of opportunity within the prevailing Anglo culture. At the same time, boundaries of femininity were pushed earlier and further than in other parts of the country.
Women artists in the West painted a wide range of subjects, and their work embraced a variety of styles: Realism, Impressionism, Symbolism, Surrealism. Some women championed modern art as gallery owners, collectors, and critics, while others were educators and curators. All played an important role in gaining the acceptance of women as men's peers in artistic communities, and their independent spirit resonates in studios and galleries throughout the country today.
Virginia Scharff, Introduction: Women Envision the West, 1890-1945
Susan Landauer, Searching for Selfhood: Women Artists of Northern California
Patricia Trenton, "Islands on the Land": Women Traditionalists of Southern California
Ilene Susan Fort, The Adventuresome, The Eccentrics, and The Dreamers: Women Modernists of Southern California
Vicki Halper, Northwestern Exposure
Sarah Moore, No Woman's Land: Arizona Adventurers
Sandra D'Emilio and Sharyn R. Udall, Inner Voices, Outward Forms: Women Painters in New Mexico
Susan Landauer with Becky Duval Reese, Lone Star Spirits
Erika Doss, "I Must Paint": Women Artists of the Rocky Mountain Region
Joni L. Kinsey, Cultivating the Grasslands: Women Painters in the Great Plains
Patricia Trenton is a consultant/curator at the Los Angeles Athletic Club Art Collection. She is the coauthor of The Rocky Mountains: A Vision for Artists in the Nineteenth Century (1983), Native Americans: Five Centuries of Changing Images (1989), and California Light: 1900-1930 (1990).
"The history of women's participation in the westward expansion has often been subsumed into myths of pioneers and cowgirls. Independent Spirits offers convincing evidence of real women's contributions to the cultural life of the American West. Many of the names may be unfamiliar, but the stories can't help but transform our idea of history. An accessible and informative volume."—Whitney Chadwick, Professor of Art History, San Francisco State University
"Independent Spirits offers the first step in documenting the achievements and innovations of women in the pictorial arts. The history of Western American painting can never again be examined without the consideration of women in that development."—William Gerdts, Professor of Art History, The Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York
"This book makes available the material we need to begin rethinking the West's cultural history. The art history of the region—like the general histories of the West itself—has long concentrated on the work of men. With tightly focused regional essays, fresh photographic illustrations, and reproductions of many little-known works of art, this book establishes women as central figures in the creation of American art."—Martha Sandweiss, Director of the Mead Art Museum, Amherst College
"At last there is for art of the American West a serious diversion from the enduring continuum of male-oriented surveys. In this handsome volume, for the first time, women's art is copiously revealed and duly celebrated. Their persistent and remarkable creative forces have played a powerful part in interpreting Western life and evolving regional tastes. Here we finally see women's rightful place in the Western creative saga."—Peter Hassrick, Director, Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Wyoming
1995 Caroline Bancroft History Prize, Denver Public Library Western History/Genealogy Department
1996 Susan Koppelman Award, Women's Caucus of the Popular Culture Association and the American Culture Assoc
Western Heritage Award for the outstanding book published in 1995, National Cowboy Hall of Fame