MSM Student Caitlin Barry Reviews the Gay Rodeo Exhibit

Jerry Hubbard, Burbank, California, 1989, archival pigment printed on Epson exhibition fiber paper, 20 by 20 inches, Loan courtesy of Blake Little

 

Bull Riding, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 1989, archival pigment printed on Epson exhibition fiber paper, 12 by 12 inches, Loan courtesy of Blake Little

 

The Blake Little: Photographs from the Gay Rodeo exhibition at the Gilcrease is an eye-opening experience for anyone, especially for someone like me who has little experience with rodeos and I have no idea what they entail. I knew before seeing this exhibit that rodeos have bull riding, bareback bronco riding and barrel racing, but these photographs showed so much more than these events. The International Gay Rodeo Circuit was founded in 1985 but what is truly unique about this organization is that it welcomes competitors regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity and only asks that its competitors are of legal age.

These pictures give a glimpse into the Gay Rodeo circuit in the American West between 1988 and 1992. Through this brief glimpse, Blake Little has captured the thoughtful, loving and tight-knit relationship between the athletes who compete on the circuit. Blake questioned whether he was a real cowboy because he “felt like an observer and photography was [his] first passion”  but from the skill and story demonstrated in these photographs you could not doubt that Blake was a true cowboy and no one else could capture these photographs the way he did.

There was one particular picture that struck me, and I found myself unable to look away, the picture was called Bareback Bronc Riding and was captured in San Diego, California in 1992. This picture shows the skill of the rider as he is in perfect unison with the bronc and no matter how hard you tried you could not recreate this image.

The Gay Rodeo is still an ongoing organization with events in California, Nevada, Texas and Utah coming up this year! Check out their website http://igra.com/missionPublic.htm for more information. Blake Little: Photographs from the Gay Rodeo exhibition is on display at the Gilcrease Museum until November 25, 2018. Look at https://gilcrease.org/exhibitions/little/ to find out more information.

Museum Science and Management Student Caitlin Barry