Rodeo Girl

For Terrence

I found a total gem.

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The day got off to an early start, so after buying some basil and blackberry plants to put in the ground today, I swung by one of my favorite used bookstores in town.  The book, Rodeo Girl.

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It’s a series of photographs made by Lisa Eisner and published by Greybull Press in 2000.

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First off, I’ll say I love this book.  It’s a thorough investigation of an interesting, and probably under documented subculture.  Eisner investigates it all – the glitz and glamour, the beauty and strength of the women, sexism and machismo, and the performance art of it all.

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Eisner was born and raised in Wyoming.

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Every girl in Cheyenne wants to be Miss Frontier.  My rodeo queen obsession started when I was 10.  My best friend Trish and I taped some crepe paper on a tandem bicycle and joined the rodeo parade.  She was the little girl with ringlets and lollipop, I was the little boy with the penciled freckles.  I was a complete tomboy, totally out of touch with my girlie side.  Until we rode past the rodeo queens.  I’ll never forget that vision.  I looked at them high up on their big powerful horses.  They were like superheroes with their gold sequined shirts reflecting on their green hats and their tiaras shooting light everywhere.  They were like fireworks, a laser show, a disco ball.  The bright Western sun hitting all those rhinestones and sequins.  It was blinding.  They were a cross between Annie Oakley and Liberace – all sparkly!  I couldn’t even imagine that I was the same species as these women, let alone the same gender.  But the second I saw them, I knew.  I was ready to ditch the bike and the Converse sneakers.  I was ready for a bra and tiara.  I was ready to be a rodeo queen.

-Lisa Eisner

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The photographs are all printed full bleed, with the quality of printing perfectly matching the content.  I think I’d call this book a wonderful, well-thought out documentary folk art project. There is a nice kitsch appeal too, and yet the pictures are entirely unashamed, without irony.  A totally unexpected and wonderful book.

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