The Lingo of Our Calling: The Legacy of Cowboy Poetry

The Lingo of Our Calling exhibition

September 24 - November 15, 2009

Western Folklife Center
Wiegand Gallery
501 Railroad Street, Elko, Nevada


 The Lingo of Our Calling Installation

The Lingo of Our Calling: The Legacy of Cowboy Poetry offers a glimpse into the ranching world through the lens of cowboy poetry and related art forms. This exhibit invites you to hear firsthand from working cowboys and to explore the enduring beauty and spirit of their culture, presenting cowboy poetry, music and gear, paintings, photography, posters, and quilting. Recordings of recitations of the poems appearing in the exhibit bring them to life. Short films featuring the art and work of contemporary ranchers offer insight into the culture from the perspective of those working day-to-day on the land. A small, traveling library of selected volumes provides an opportunity to delve further into cowboy poetry.

From the time of the open range and trail drives to today's ranching generation, cowboy poetry, storytelling and music have been a means of entertainment and communication. Cowboy poetry took hold as an oral and literary tradition during the late nineteenth century, giving voice to the experience of working ranchers and cowhands. Since the mid-1980s, cowboy poetry gatherings have galvanized an occupational and creative community, where artists find mutual inspiration and camaraderie. The poetry, stories, and music once shared around the campfire or in the bunkhouse are now also performed onstage, bringing a much larger and more diverse audience into the fold. Because of its universal themes - friendship, loyalty, connection to place, loss, loneliness, and change - cowboy poetry has an appeal that reaches well beyond the culture from which it emanates.

The Lingo of Our Calling exhibitionCurated by Laura Marcus for the Western Folklife Center and sponsored by American Masterpieces, Three Centuries of Genius, an iniatitive of the National Endowment for the Arts, this traveling exhibition from the Nevada Arts Council Nevada Touring Iniatitive is based on the 2004 Western Folklife Center exhibition, The Lingo of Our Calling, curated by Elizabeth Dear, Meg Glaser, and Steve Green to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

The Nevada Touring Initiative supports the work of artists and increases access to cultural events and experiences at the local level, particularly in communities that have typically been underserved. The Nevada Arts Council is a division of the Nevada Department of Cultural Affairs.