She is not riding off into the sunset.
We have seen that scene though. Where a silhouette trots over the west’s rocky edge to the sound of a lonesome steel guitar as screen credits, with a tumbleweed’s nonchalance, roll onto the screen. It is the prize winning closer of a western.
But for Iris Scott’s oil painting, Rodeo (71” x 60”), the credits cannot roll because its story is not over.
The painting’s story is bigger than Iris Scott or the horseback figure. The story is one about the collective female tradition.
“Rodeo is a piece about more than a bucking bronco and a woman rider, it is about gender inequality” says the artist.
Throughout life and research, Scott noticed a bias subtly tipped towards young boys.
“Little boys grow up seeing countless images of men being president, but little girls are not as fortunate,” she says.
Scott believes in the power of images and visual examples as a way to impel young children into success and greatness. So, through artworks like Rodeo, she is balancing the bias.
“Before little girls can really imagine themselves in an important and difficult new role it’s tremendously important that they first watch older women just killing it in that said position,” says Iris Scott.
Rodeo offers a powerful image with which young children, especially young girls, can identify.
“I find the symbol of a female riding a bucking bronco to be fascinating,” she says.
When she tried to research “female riding a bucking bronco” on the internet, she found herself in a search engine ghost town: she found nothing. However, she did find a plethora of images showing male riders.
So she worked with what she was given.
“I took it upon myself to tweak the bodies until a female form was derived. I added breasts, smaller shoulders, smaller hands, smaller arms, and longer hair,” she said.
She calls this process, “a metaphor for hacking the limits put on young girls.”
The result is an unbridled display of female freedom and power.
This project is, in many ways, big. On a cultural scale, the social issues she wrangles are deeply rooted and knotted. But, on a personal level, Rodeo was the largest canvas she had ever attempted.
Iris Scott is a finger painter, which means that Rodeo was built, literally, by hand – not a single brush was used. Spare a moment for the symbolic beauty of this process and the way it enacts the overarching project of the work. How a woman on a bucking bronco – an image once out of even the internet’s reach — can materialize from physical scratch and an artist’s vision.
“I loved scooping the paint from the jar and slapping it up there. In some ways, this is more of a sculptural painting because I had to carve into it with my fingers,” she says.
The process involved work. The painting took three 15-hour days to paint, 5 weeks to dry time, and $200 worth of white paint. Scott documented and distilled the entire creation on a short video of her process.
Video of Rodeo’s creation
The video was a hit. Websites such as Huffington Post, COLOSSAL, MyModernMet, and Fubiz have featured the two-minute video.
In addition to documentation, Rodeo’s composition and style, make the work emphatically narrative; the painting is not at rest.
Compositionally, with hoofs kicking and hair flipping, it is a scene of motion. Stylistically, the paint texture is colorful and prodded, not settled flat on the canvas.
While Rodeo is not the end, it does suggest motion towards an end.
This is an end where young women, with a finger-painted guiding star, can ride off into the sunset – inspired by Rodeo and directed by Iris Scott.