J. Gray Sweeney wrote against the nostalgic heroism of white, Western cowboys in early America. The Cowboy Artists of America perpetuates this myth with its all male group of artists that exclusively focus on the Western stereotype grounded by Frederic Remington and Charles Russell. In their quest to “insure authentic representations of the life of the West as it was and is,” (Sweeney, pg 162) “stereotyped images of western life, the cowboy, the pointer or settler confronting or battling hostile Indians, who are represented as obstructing the fulfillment of individual or national destiny, are continually repeated” (Sweeney, pg 161). Therefore, the view of the West has been dominated by an elite group of white males who have chosen what artists to validate and which to ignore, shaping our historical view of cowboys from the reality of being “usually black or brown” (Sweeney, pg 164) and into the classic, white cowboy images we know today.
It has come to my attention that anything other than the idealized image of the cowboy stated above “make it abundantly apparent that the supporters of western art are willing to do everything int here power to protect the cherished fantasy of America’s ‘winning of the West’ promoted in this art” (Sweeney, pg 165). How long will we continue to cradle the history of the West in the hands of elite, white men? CAA has dominated and perpetuated the stereotype of Western art, and it’s time the Native Americans and others innate to the time have a chance to speak aloud.
Michaela Stock, Hope College 2020.