Much like visual art, the enduring tradition of cowboy poetry is a rich and vital form of cultural expression in the American West. This exhibition is inspired by the widely-celebrated poem Grass, which was written by legendary Texas poet Buck Ramsey. Featuring a selection of historical and contemporary paintings, photographs, and sculptural works combined with the spoken voices of renowned cowboy poets, this unique exhibition offers insight into the varied experiences arising from life in rural and ranching communities. Grass: Rhythms of a Cowboy Poem was developed jointly by the Nevada Museum of Art and the Western Folklife Center on the occasion of the 25th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering held annually in Elko, Nevada.
Buck Ramsey’s poem Grass eloquently engages with a range of themes and ideas that resonate with anyone who has spent time among the open spaces of the American West. Foremost among these themes is the recognition of rhythm as an essential component of nature and cowboy life—a quality that is also reflected in the cadence of cowboy poetry. In many ways, the visual artworks selected for this exhibition elicit similar visual rhythms. From intricate paintings of rolling prairie grasses by Karen Kitchel to paintings by Theodore Waddell and photographs by Adam Jahiel, the essence of life on the range is portrayed in a wide range of media. Other works by artists such as Ed Ruscha and Scott Robert Hudson explore the rhythms of working cowboy life and the disruption of natural range cycles due to agricultural processes.