A major exhibition celebrating the enduring spirit of Western women opens will make its Tulsa debut at Gilcrease Museum in February. “Home Lands: How Women Made the West,” organized by the Autry National Center, opens Feb. 20 and runs through May 15, 2011.


“The ‘Home Lands’ exhibition is a new approach to delivering historic content, one that encourages interaction and visitor input,” said Duane King, Ph.D., TU vice president of museum affairs and executive director of Gilcrease Museum.


“This provocative exhibit solicits observation, direct response, and conversation. In many ways, this exhibition deals with making order from chaos by exploiting the advantages women were able to exercise in small and large ways,” King said.


“Home Lands” focuses on three regions: northern New Mexico, the Colorado Front Range, and Puget Sound, Washington. Exploring a specific theme for each place - earth for Northern New Mexico; transportation for the Colorado Front Range; and water for Puget Sound - the exhibition highlights the West’s remarkable cultural diversity; the role of the environment in women’s lives; and the ways in which women responded to and inevitably shaped their environs.


The exhibitions ventures beyond popular perceptions of the West as an empty wilderness where men struggled against nature to transform the land to offer a rich and real portrait of the West that is in large part unfamiliar. This dynamic re-thinking of American Western history challenges stereotypes of women’s roles through the stories of the Native American women who first made their homes in the region as well as the women, from many different cultures, who have migrated to the West for hundreds of years. 


These stories include Dr. Justina Ford, the first African American woman doctor in Colorado; noted educator, home economist and author Fabiola Cabeza de Baca of New Mexico; and Bertha Knight Landes, mayor of Seattle from 1926 to 1928 and the first female mayor of a major American city.


“Home Lands” illustrates their extraordinary stories by utilizing more than 100 objects spanning more than 1,200 years. Featured items include textiles and historic clothing from the 18th through the 20th centuries; ancient and modern pottery; paintings, photography, and sculpture by historic and contemporary women artists; books, photographs, and other ephemera.


The exhibition is curated by Carolyn Brucken, associate curator of women’s history at the Autry, and Virginia Scharff, Women of the West Chair, Institute for the Study of the American West at the Autry.


“The history of the American West is often a male-dominated story. By examining the ways in which women encountered and transformed three different archetypal Western landscapes, ‘Home Lands’ explores not just what women have done, but why it matters for the West—past present, and future,” said Brucken and Scharff. “We believe that seeing women in history makes history look different.”


“Home Lands” examines the regions of Northern New Mexico, the Colorado Front Range, and Puget Sound, exploring women’s homes, habitats and environs over centuries and within many different cultures and communities.



Three Regions


In the Rio Arriba (the name the Spanish gave to northern New Mexico) women have inhabited and utilized the land for at least 10,000 years and have a long history as builders, creators and owners of homes. This section of the exhibition highlights women’s use of earth - as manifested in pottery, adobe building traditions, real estate, and art - to see how women from different cultural backgrounds drew distinct sources of inspiration from the land. The flow of people and trade in the region lead women to create new, hybrid traditions, such as a Navajo banded blanket from the mid-1800s. Known as a “slave blanket,” Navajo women living as captives in Hispanic homes first created this style of blanket, combining Spanish materials and dyes with Navajo looms and weaving techniques.


This section of “Home Lands” also includes pottery by famed Pueblo potter Maria Martinez (1881-1980), and a painting by Georgia O’Keeffe.


The Colorado Front Range section of the exhibition considers how people on the move - from the 18th century Cheyenne to the 20th suburban American family - make homes, with a focus on powerful methods of transportation.


The horse propelled Native women onto the Great Plains and into a nomadic way of life. A beautifully painted, late 19th century Cheyenne parfleche - an “envelope” made of rawhide and used as a suitcase for supplies when moving camp - is an example of objects Cheyenne women of the time created for their own use.


When Denver created its original streetcar system, in the 19th century, one of the first lines went into an area called Five Points, an ethnically diverse neighborhood that quickly grew dense and bustling with businesses and residences along the tracks. By the 20th century, women drivers have become the new icons of mobility and settlement in the West.


Finally, the Puget Sound section looks at how women throughout the Pacific Northwest have worked with water, using it to transform their homes and communities. From Coastal Salish fishing practices to women working in the salmon canneries in the 19th and 20th centuries to the construction of the Gorge Dam (1921) and the creation of utility systems that brought power and water into Seattle homes, this section of the exhibition will show how women’s lives in the Puget Sound area have long been inextricably connected with water.


The power of waterscapes may be seen in native baskets for digging clams, displayed alongside painted paddle by contemporary artist Susan Point, or a 1924 silk Kimono depicting a traditional Japanese mountain and waterscape juxtaposed with contemporary artist Aki Sogabe’s portrayal of Washington’s Mt. Rainier in one of the original papercut studies for her Pike Place Market mural (1999).


Each section of the “Home Lands” exhibition features the work of renowned female visual artists from the 19th century to the present day.


“Home Lands: How Women Made the West” was organized by the Autry National Center, Los Angles, and is generously supported by Cam and Peter Starret, Ernst & Young, Eastman Kodak Company, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Unified

Grocers, Wells Fargo, KCET and the Friends of the Autry.


[Gilcrease Museum has planned extensive educational programming to complement the “Home Lands” exhibition. Please refer to the separate list of programming accompanying this news release. These programs are open to the public, and most are free with paid museum admission.]



Gilcrease Museum, located in Tulsa, Okla., is one of the country's best facilities for the preservation and study of American art and history. The museum houses the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of art and artifacts of the American West, including an unparalleled collection of Native American art and artifacts, as well as thousands of historical documents, maps and manuscripts. Gilcrease museum's charm, beauty and art collections draw thousands of visitors from around the world to the Osage Hills just northwest of downtown Tulsa for a glimpse into America’s past. The museum is owned by the City of Tulsa, which has partnered with The University of Tulsa to steward the museum.

Gilcrease Museum hours are: Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. In addition to exceptional temporary and permanent exhibitions, the museum features themed gardens that have been developed on 23 of the museum’s 460 acres. The Restaurant at Gilcrease serves lunch Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3p.m., and offers a Sunday brunch. 


Admission is:

  • $8 for adults
  • $6 for seniors (62 and older)
  • $6 for active duty members of the U.S. military
  • $5 for college students with valid ID
  • Children 18 and under are free
  • TU Tuesday – first Tuesday of every month. Free admission.


Contact (918) 596-2700 for more information.