Apr 14, 2013 through Mar 16, 2014
When America needed hard workers, the cowboy was there. The job was dirty and difficult, low-paid and lowly regarded. But when an America torn by the Civil War needed a hero to unite its soul, the unassuming cowboy was an unlikely—and ultimately lasting—pick. Since riding out of Spanish horse culture, he’s been an itinerant hired hand, an outlaw, a movie star, a rodeo athlete, a radio yodeler, and a rhinestoned disco diva. He’s been Spanish, Mexican, African American, Anglo, male, female, straight, and gay. His image has been co-opted to sell trucks, beer, boots, beans, jeans, tires, cigarettes, leather couches, presidential candidates, and a lifestyle far beyond the means of real-life buckaroos.
Using artifacts and photographs from its wide-ranging collections, along with loans from more than 100 people and museums, Cowboys Real and Imagined (April 14, 2013, through March 16, 2014) blends a chronological history of Southwestern cowboys with the rise of a manufactured mystique as at home on city streets as it is in a stockyard. Augmented by archival footage, oral histories, musical performances, and a programming series that includes showings of classic Western movies filmed in New Mexico, the exhibition anchors the cowboy story in New Mexico, a place that gave birth to the real thing and held onto it longer than most other states.