On a Thursday morning, the University of Wyoming Art Museum was empty, save for a welcoming young person sitting at the front desk behind a Plexiglas shield. The murmuring of a woman’s voice echoed through the hallways.
Follow the woman’s voice to the gallery space, and you may find that you’re the only one there. But, you wouldn’t be alone. Rather, you would find yourself surrounded by influential women captured in vibrant portraits. This is artist Lindsay Linton Buk’s “Women in Wyoming: Portraits and Interviews of Women Who Shape the West.”
In an age defined by digital media, Buk shot each of the portraits with a medium format film camera. She felt that the physicality of film complemented the raw beauty of Wyoming.
Buk shot over 600 rolls of film after travelling more than 15,000 miles for this project. Her care and investment shines through each of the 22 portraits.
“Working with [Buk] was an amazing experience. She is such a strong, warm, talented person, said Michelle Sunset, assistant curator for the UW Art Museum. She was able to build special connections with this diverse group of women, which not everyone would be able to do.”
She added that visitors are often stunned and taken with how beautiful these monumental portraits are.
A photographer and fifth-generation Wyomingite, Buk started the project in 2016.
“Since 2016, I’ve travelled thousands of miles to connect with and learn from artists, politicians, ranchers, authors, businesswomen, community stewards, and more. Their journeys of courage, struggle and triumph have expanded my world,” Buk said in her artist statement.
It is a powerful feeling to step into a room and be surrounded by large-scale portraits of brazen women. It’s not often one is in the company of such illustrious movers and shakers, and it can be an emotional experience.
While engaging with their images, you can simultaneously hear each woman tell her story through the audio soundscape. Hearing their voices makes them feel closer, as though you might be able to engage in conversation.
Each portrait is uniquely framed. Some women are shot from further away and become part of their landscape, such as Lynette St. Clair, who is framed against the Wind River Mountains. St. Clair is a Shoshone linguist, cultural preservationist, and educational consultant on the Wind River Reservation.
Others are shot much closer, their bodies filling the whole frame, such as Dr. Diane Noton Coale, who is an emergency room physician and rural doctor. Each woman has a unique story, and it feels appropriate to engage with them in their distinct landscape and spirit.
One thing that is present in each portrait is joy. Most of the women are smiling and all of them have a vibrancy and energy that shines forth in their facial expressions and body language.
Wyoming is a small town with long roads, so you may recognize and personally know some of the featured women. On the other hand, some may be perfect strangers who you never knew had a direct impact on your life, such as Rita Watson, who is the longest-serving employee in the Wyoming Department of Education. Her work has likely had some impact on you or your children, and this is an opportunity to get to know her story.
These women are presented in a way that makes them look mighty, much like the Wyoming landscape itself. With its wild weather and lonesome highway stretches, Wyoming is not for the faint of heart. It takes a particularly hearty and fierce person to weather the literal and figurative storms. If any of these women were to stand up to a tempestuous Wyoming storm, it seems we could place our bets on them.
See the Exhibit
Women in Wyoming will be on view through July 17.
Hours are Tues — Fri. 10 a.m. — 5 p.m, with at-risk visitors only on Wed. from 10 a.m. — noon. Admission is free, and masks are required.
ABOUT SHOOTING ON FILM
Shooting with a film camera often requires much more patience, time, and more deliberative decision-making. It is an investment in the subject because, not only will it take time to see the finished product, but each portrait must go through an involved process of development. There are many steps that occur between the snap of the shutter and the hanging of the portraits in this gallery.