Tough by Nature


“I undertook this project because the character of these women is right there on the surface, more so than somebody who’s got layers and layers of urban culture.” – Lynda Lanker, artist


In 2012, fine artist Lynda Lanker launched “Tough by Nature,” a series of portraits of women ranchers and cowgirls from the American West. A 19-year project, she traveled the western United States to interview 49 women and capture their spirit through portraiture. As the American West undergoes transition and transformation, Lynda’s work preserves the histories of these contemporary western heroines.

The book “Tough by Nature” was published by the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art in Eugene, Oregon, and an exhibition of the same name was on view at the museum from July 1 – Sept. 9, 2012. The exhibit is now touring at other museums through Landau Traveling Exhibitions.

The project began as an idea of Lynda’s artist friend, Elizabeth Brinton, who suggested a collaboration to portray Eastern Oregon. Elizabeth would paint the landscape and Lynda, the people. Elizabeth was unable to commit to the extensive travel schedule, so Lynda pursued the project on her own and extended it to include most of the American West. Throughout the project, Lynda was encouraged and advised by her late-husband, photographer Brian Lanker.

Lynda’s process included on-site photographs, sketches and interviews. For the portraits, she experimented with a variety of mediums, choosing the technique she felt best captured the subject’s character. The 49 portraits range in medium from charcoal, oil pastel, acrylic and egg tempera, to plate and stone lithography and drypoint engraving.

Visit to see images of lithographs that can be purchased, view the exhibition schedule, or to order a copy of the book. More information about scheduling the exhibit can be found at


“This 19-year sojourn has been almost like a second childhood for me, sitting, listening, and watching these women. I learned from them, and they changed me … the resilience, character, and quiet strength of these extraordinary women will be with me forever.” – Lynda Lanker, artist

Office: 541.485.0070

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