If you would like to help support our work here at the Museum, consider joining the Friends of the Center for Great Plains Studies.
Relative Position: The Sculptural Beadwork of Molly Murphy Adams
The Elizabeth Rubendall Artist-in-Residence
In the main gallery with the artist working in the lobby April 23-May 3
April 23 - May 26.
OPEN NOW IN THE LENTZ GALLERY:
Spurs & Spitfire
Humor of the American West
There is the romantic and idealized West, and then there is the real West. Many artists chose to bust up the vanity of that ideal West by presenting the real as ridiculous, as reality so often is. Critic Leslie Fiedler noted in The Return of the Vanishing American that it was not heroes and politicians that built the American West, but “the gunslingers and pimps, habitual failures and refugees from law and order, as well as certain dogged pursuers of a dream . . .” There are those who imagined the West and those who knew the West, and those who knew it best couldn’t help but chuckle at the others.
To be sure, the seamier side of the West may be ripe for laughs, but it isn’t always clear if the humor is meant for an outside or internal audience. Perhaps laughing at Western peculiarities made living in the West more bearable, or maybe acknowledging the humor of daily life simply appealed to the anti-idealists? The fact that these artists knew how to present the daily humdrums as amusements validated their identity as real westerners. It proved that this was their West; this was a West they understood. And you can’t kid a kidder.
All images are detail photos of the artists' actual works.