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Spiva Center for the Arts Joplin MO



Cowboys – The Symbol of the West

Works from the Leggett & Platt Collection | A Joe Beeler Memorial Exhibit

Sponsored by Leggett & Platt, Incorporated

Nothing more personifies the American West than the cowboy. The image is highly recognizable – cowboys are depicted with the distinctive boots, chaps, bandanas, shotguns, and of course, the cowboy hat. Through the years, cowboy life has been romanticized to include a life of chivalry, shoot-outs, and fighting Native Americans. Cowboys typically are portrayed as a masculine ideal, exhibiting strength, speed, and skill with a gun. But the life of the real American cowboy was much simpler than that – most cowboys spent long, lonely years working on ranches and driving cattle for 14 hours a day.

Though real-life cowboys weren’t glamorous, they were hard workers who exemplified independence, individualism, and honesty due to the isolated nature of their work. The art work exhibited from the walls of the Leggett & Platt collection perfectly captures the true life and spirit of the American cowboy.

Included are works by Joe Beeler, memorialized by this exhibit. Beeler was born in 1931 in Joplin, Missouri. At an early age, Beeler started drawing and becoming very artistic. He continued his skills throughout college at Kansas State Teachers College and later attended the Art Center of Design in Los Angeles, California. After his time in school, Beeler worked as an illustrator for the University of Oklahoma Press. Beeler’s life as an artist was difficult for him but he eventually became recognized for all of his hard work. Beeler’s career really took off after his one-man performance at the Gilcrease Museum. In 1962, he and his family moved to Sedona, Arizona, where he died. In 1965, Beeler along with many other cowboy artists started the Cowboy Artists of America.

Cowboys – The Symbol of the West is sponsored by Leggett & Platt, Incorporated with additional financial support from the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.

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