Cowgirl power! New art exhibition in Leeds puts feminine slant on life in the Wild West

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A new art exhibition in Leeds is challenging the perception of America’s Wild West as a time when men were men and women had to know their place.

The Leeds College of Art exhibition features a magnificent seven large-scale portraits of male actors from classic film westerns ‘reimagined’ as women.

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They include John Wayne in True Grit, James Dean in Giant, Gary Cooper in High Noon and Clint Eastwood in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

All of the pictures in the Re/Western exhibition are by the American artist Felice House, an assistant professor at Texas A&M University.

And organisers hope people going along to see House’s work will come away inspired to think again about gender stereotypes and women’s access to power.

Sharon Bainbridge, who is curating the event with fellow Leeds College of Art staff members Joanna Craddock and Catriona McAra, told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “I was fortunate to visit Lubbock, Texas, in October 2015 to present as part of the Texas Art School Association conference.

“Whilst there I saw Felice’s work and was mesmerised by the colour, the size and its arresting nature.

“Seeing women painted in such powerful roles was completely inspiring.

“In today’s political climate I felt it was really important to share these works with Leeds and beyond [and] to celebrate women outside of the typical gender stereotypes.”

Re/Western also features a micro-residency by University of Leeds PhD candidate Elspeth Mitchell.

Staged in collaboration with Corridor8 magazine, the micro-residency will see Elspeth developing a text to accompany the artwork.

The exhibition is on now at Leeds College of Art’s Blenheim Walk Gallery and runs until March 24.

Its programme includes free screenings of western films, also taking place in the Blenheim Walk Gallery.

The Wind (1928) and Johnny Guitar (1954) will be shown at 5pm next Tuesday, January 31, while Westworld (1973) is being screened at 5pm on Tuesday, February 21.

For further information, visit www.leeds-art.ac.uk.

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