ArtExhibitionsYou Are in Cowboy Country

You Are in Cowboy Country

Ongoing Located in American Art galleries

You Are in Cowboy Country sheds light on the stories of those whose influence is often excluded from the history of the American West, including Mexican vaqueros, all-Black U.S. military regiments, Navajo cowboys, and cowgirls.

Bill Owen, The Working Cowboy (El vaquero trabajando), 1976. Oil on canvas. Given in memory of Dean Stanley by friends and family.

The white cowboy is a celebrated icon in American popular culture and art. In reality, cowboys and cowgirls of different races and nationalities have contributed significantly to the history of the West. Their stories are not often represented.

As white settlers expanded west, they met Mexican vaqueros tending to ranches and adopted their dress, terminology, and techniques for handling horses. Among these new settlers were also formerly enslaved people in search of opportunity. Some came as Buffalo Soldiers, members of all-Black U.S. military regiments who also built roads, captured cattle thieves, and were among the first park rangers.

African Americans not in the military made their own name on the frontier. Bill Pickett invented bulldogging, now known as steer wrestling, and Bass Reeves, deputy U.S. Marshal, may have been the inspiration for the Lone Ranger.

Among Indigenous peoples living in the West, Navajo cowboy heritage is rooted in 19th-century competitive horse racing and wild cow riding from which rodeos developed. Today, the Navajo Nation Rodeo Association is one of several modern organizations established to handle the steady expansion of this competitive sport among Native Americans.

Less recognized than their male contemporaries, cowgirls were among America’s first female professional athletes. They played integral parts in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. As skilled horsewomen and rodeo competitors, they often performed dangerous stunts and were accomplished ropers, trick riders, and steer wrestlers.

You Are in Cowboy Country sheds light on the influences of these underrepresented communities through works drawn exclusively from the American art collection of Phoenix Art Museum.

Image credit: Bill Owen, The Working Cowboy (El vaquero trabajando), 1976. Oil on canvas. Given in memory of Dean Stanley by friends and family.

You Are in Cowboy Country is organized by Phoenix Art Museum. It is made possible through the generosity of the Henry Luce Foundation, with additional support from the Museum’s Circles of Support and Museum Members.


On view for a limited time, exhibitions present art from across the centuries and the globe, from iconic fashion to Old Master paintings, contemporary photography to historical objects of Asia.


Featuring more than 20,000 objects, the collection spans the globe, bringing the world to our city, and our city to the world.


Since 1986, Phoenix Art Museum has awarded more than $350,000 to over 200 Arizona-based artists through two annual artist awards opportunities.


What can we help you find?

Need further assistance?
Please call Visitor Services at 602.257.1880 or email