Texas State exhibition showcases the pride and skill of women ranchers

<em>Janelle Cole, business senior, inspects texts about the ranching industry April 12 included in the Strong as an Acre of Garlic exhibit in JCM.</em><p><strong>Photo by Ali Mumbach</strong></p>

Janelle Cole, business senior, inspects texts about the ranching industry April 12 included in the Strong as an Acre of Garlic exhibit in JCM.

Photo by Ali Mumbach

Brianna Benitez

The Strong as an Acre of Garlic art exhibition is spotlighting four female ranchers who are paving the way in a male-dominated industry.

The exhibition is an immersive installation designed to reflect the lives of female ranchers. The goal of the exhibition is to demonstrate the shifting nature of the cattle industry. Strong as an Acre of Garlic will be on display in the Joann Cole Mitte Building until April 19.

The installation functions as a captivating collection of textiles and wooden structures meant to reference ranch houses and cattle fences. Each structure contains information representing the lives of four female ranchers: Missy Bonds, Linda Galayda, Kimberly Ratcliff and Kelly Sullivan.

Bryony Roberts is an award-winning artist and designer responsible for the creation of the Strong as an Acre of Garlic exhibition. Roberts attended Yale University and received her masters in architecture from Princeton. She currently operates her own studio, Bryony Roberts Studio, in New York.

Roberts was invited by her colleague and friend, Margo Handwerker, to develop the exhibition at Texas State. Handwerker is currently the director of galleries in the School of Art and Design. As director, Handwerker is responsible for programming the galleries and exhibitions present.

Handwerker asked Roberts to create a piece to represent the central Texas region. Strong as an Acre of Garlic is an evolution of different interests that came together over time.

Roberts said she became inspired with the idea of creating art tied to ranching after spending time with a friend who grew up in a ranch in West Texas. She quickly became fascinated by female rodeo riders.

Roberts said it was inspiring to see how feminine female rodeo riders appeared in their beautiful costumes while simultaneously evoking such incredible strength; she soon realized women in the ranching industry embody that same femininity and strength on a daily basis.

Roberts started her project after discovering Linda Galayda, operator of 7-7 Ranch, through her blog Texas Rancher Girl. It was through Galayda Roberts was introduced to the other three women.

Through interviewing the female ranchers, Roberts learned what a difficult lifestyle ranching entails. She said there are various factors that create obstacles for ranchers, such as changes in weather and fluctuations in the cattle market.

“One thing that stuck with me by working with these women was their resiliency,” Roberts said. “All of them have this incredible ability to find this peace and strength in facing their challenges.”

The hardest part for Roberts in developing the women-centered exhibition was finding a way to narrow down the context of each women’s ranching experience into a single art installation. Roberts said each conversation pointed to a new one, which explored the local and global difficulties of the ranching industry.

“The challenge was figuring out how to edit it down and highlight the complexity and subtlety of these individual experiences in a way that was respectful and thoughtful,” Roberts said.

Handwerker hopes the exhibition encourages and evokes an open-mindedness in viewers to experiences not similar to their own.

“This exhibition is an opportunity for attendees to hear about different experiences from folks in ranching and from folks who live in rural areas,” Handwerker said.

Ashlyn Brosch, art freshman, said the exhibition was unlike something she would normally find herself attending. However, after exploring the exhibition and familiarizing herself with the ranching industry, she learned how under-appreciated women are in the industry.

“When someone thinks about ranching, they wouldn’t normally think of women,” Brosch said. “I think it’s important people realize women are capable of getting their hands dirty.”

Additionally, Brosch appreciated how encompassing the exhibition was. Unlike the majority of artwork Brosch has seen featured in the Texas State galleries, Strong as an Acre of Garlic was spread throughout the space.

“Most of the time, (art in the galleries) are paintings on the walls or small sculptures on a table,” Brosch said.

Brosch said she feels as if the project layout provokes visitors to be immersed within the artwork and helps describe the artist’s message, rather than leaving attendees to interpret what the artist means.

Strong as an Acre of Garlic is an exhibition designed to highlight the expertise and skill women ranchers perform every day. The exhibition aims to exemplify how women in the ranching industry are changing the field in ways people might not realize.

To stay up-to-date on future gallery exhibitions, follow @txstgalleries on Instagram.

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