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 Donna Howell-Sickles  (1949 - )

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Lived/Active: Texas      Known for: action cowgirl figure paintings, sculpture

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Ad Code: 3
Donna Howell-Sickles
from Auction House Records.
Three White Horses
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Donna Howell-Sickles' subject of empowered cowgirl figures dates back to 1972 when she stumbled across a 1950s hand-tinted postcard.  It featured a waving cowgirl and under it was the inscription: "Greetings for a Real Cowgirl of the Southwest."  The notion of a woman sitting atop her horse in period costume appealed to the artist. "But back then I didn't think they were real cowgirls," say Howell-Sickles. "At least none who might look like the one on my postcard.  The real/unreal aspect is what I liked. When I started I never gave the women faces. They had mouth, bright red mouths that were a touch off to the side. It was if you had caught a glimpse of something frozen in time. My intent was to create a generalized western persona, rather than a specific personality."

The character type, Howell-Sickles learned, was real back in the 1910s and 1920s and is readily described:  A woman who'd traveled with the Wild West Show and ridden bulls in front of crowds filling the likes of Madison Square Garden.  A woman unafraid of a challenge, and shamelessly happy.

Her works are mixed-media paintings on paper and oils on canvas.  She melds shapes of blue, white and gray with accents of red, black and turquoise.

Her works currently hang in several major Western collections: the National Museum of Wildlife Art, Jackson, Wyoming; the Buffalo Bill Historical Center Museum, Cody, Wyoming; the Tucson Museum of Art, Tucson, Arizona; and, The National Cowgirl Hall of Fame, Henderson, Texas.  She has been featured in Southwest Art, American Cowboy Magazine, and many other publications.

Kent Whipple, Art Professional

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
From her studio in Frisco Texas, Donna Howell-Sickles creates mix-media images of cowgirls that have brought her national attention and success.

She was raised on a ranch in north Texas and attended a two-room school.  While earning her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree at Texas Tech in Lubbock, she received a postcard that set the course of her art career.  The card was hand- tinted, printed in the 1930s, and featured a cowgirl with the words "Greetings from a real cowgirl from the Ole Southwest."  It appealed to her as a wonderful, fake, and glamourous image, and creating these subjects she could draw from her own cowgirl experiences competing in rodeos.

Her early cowgirls were faceless and universal, but her later work is more expressive of joy and warmth, seeming to offer friendship to the viewer.

After earning her degree, she took a variety of jobs including with the Washington State Arts Commission's Visiting Artists in the Schools.  She married and settled in Frisco.  She teaches workshops at the Scottsdale Artists School, and her work is in the Tucson Museum of Fine Art; the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming; and the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, Wyoming.

Art-Talk 6/2001

Biography from McLarry Fine Art:
Donna Howell-Sickles was born in 1949 in Gainesville, Texas and raised on a 900 acre farm.  In 1972, while earning her BFA at Texas Tech in Lubbock, she acquired an old postcard c. 1935 depicting a cowgirl seated on a horse which read, "Greetings from a Real Cowgirl from the Ole Southwest."

Attracted by the charm and confidence of the woman in the image, she began incorporating the cowgirl figure into her work, as well as collecting and researching these old-time cowgirl images.  Before long, this icon was the central theme in the contemporary settings of Donna's pieces.

Donna's works are largely mixed-media.  She works on paper and canvas in a mix of charcoal, pastel and acrylic most often leaving her under-drawing visible.  In Donna's pieces, the cowgirl achieves the status of a heroine, and her images have brought her national attention and success.

Her work is rich with symbolism and allusions to classical mythology, but the viewer does not need to be familiar with the references in order to appreciate the female affirmations of each piece.

Her paintings can be found in museum collections throughout the west including the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville, Texas; The National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas; The Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody Wyoming and several others. Her work has been featured in numerous publications and a book, Cowgirl Rising, has been made of her work.

Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, III:
In the Western art genre, Donna Howell-Sickles has taken the image and idea of the cowgirl beyond charcoal lines and into reality.  Howell-Sickles has been exploring the layers beneath the cowgirl's engaging exterior for more than 30 years.

A vintage postcard from the 1930's featuring a cowgirl with ruby red lips sitting atop her horse instilled in Howell-Sickles a lasting fascination with the cowgirl spirit. The cowgirl in the postcard was at once both familiar and unreal. This dichotomy in the imagery has fueled Howell-Sickles' artwork, and inspired her to create images of women that are both real and myth. Howell-Sickles' artwork captures the quintessence and timelessness of the cowgirl spirit.

"My fascination with the cowgirl image began in my last year of college. I received an old postcard from a friend in a typical art student trade. He brought over a large box of stuff including some of his own pottery. Near the bottom of the box were several old postcards, one of a cowgirl c. 1935 seated on a horse captioned "Greetings from a Real Cowgirl from the Ole Southwest". The image spoke to me and I had no idea why. Although I had grown up on a farming ranching operation in Texas we never really thought of ourselves as Western. I surrendered to the attraction and as I used the Cowgirl in my art and I slowly filled in the blanks about my fascination with the imagery."
~Donna Howell Sickles

artist's website

Biography from Trailside Galleries:
Born in Gainsville, Texas and raised on a 900-acre farm, Donna Howell- Sickles creates cowgirl paintings that are big, bold, colorful expressions filled with mystery, romance and allure.  Just as the cowgirls of the early Wild West show were idolized and glamorized, Sickle's contemporary cowgirl paintings are intended to evoke a mythical quality of their own.

The inspiration for this theme originally came by way of a somewhat surreal postcard that featured a 1920's cowgirl.  Attracted by the bright costumes and seemingly eccentric lifestyles, she set off to research the authentic cowgirls or the 1910's and 20's. Today, she has several albums filled with these postcards and pictures which continue to provide a steady supply of inspiration.

While her paintings feature more contemporary themes, she has captured the same spirit of independence and adventure which she first saw in those early postcards.  Donna Howell-Sickles is recognized for her innate talent for capturing a character's individuality on canvas and expressing personality in two-dimensional form.

Her paintings are found in museum collections including the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville, Texas; the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming; the C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls, Montana; the Tucson Museum of Fine Art in Tucson, Arizona and the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas.

Biography from Altamira Fine Art:
Donna Howell-Sickles, b. 1949

Having grown up on a ranch in North Texas close to the Red River, Donna Howell-Sickles developed her affinity for nature and animals at an early age.  Howell-Sickles' artwork is about women and their role in the American West.  She retells women's stories and myths using the cowgirl as a medium.

Howell-Sickles graduated from Texas Tech University with a BFA in Painting and Drawing in 1972, and has been following her passion for art ever since.  Her distinctive artwork filled with bright colors and spirited cowgirls can be found in museum collections and gallery exhibitions across the country.

Along with winning numerous awards, Howell-Sickles has been published in countless print articles and in November 2007, Donna Howell-Sickles was inducted into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas.

Six museums hold her work in their collections, a tribute to her standing in the art world. Donna and her husband, John live in Saint Jo, Texas.

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Donna Howell-Sickles is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Western Painters

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