Veryl Goodnight (center) at the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. Photography by: Rhonda Hole
Veryl Goodnight (center) at the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. Photography by: Rhonda Hole

Veryl Goodnight, along with three other women, joined a group of about 220 other distinguished cowgirls in the museum’s Hall of Fame.

Acclaimed artist Veryl Goodnight has a passion for making bronze sculptures that explore the relationships between pioneer women and wildlife. A pioneering figure for women in Western art herself, the award-winning sculptor was inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame on October 27, 2016, for her lifetime of dedication to making authentic representations of the American West in some 200 sculptures and 20 monuments. In 2001, Goodnight sculpted her distant ancestor Mary Ann Goodnight saving bison calves in 1878 from Texas hide hunters. The life size sculpture “Back From The Brink” is now located at the Museum of the Southwest in Midland, Texas. Mary Ann was inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1991, making Goodnights induction that much more special.

Simultaneously, the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame had mounted the retrospective exhibition No Turning Back: The Art of Veryl Goodnight, featuring 17 sculptures and 11 paintings by the Mancos, Colorado-based artist. Named after one of the featured sculptures — a pioneer woman looking out into the distance — the exhibition showcased pieces specially picked to embody the whole of the artist’s 45-year career up until her hall of fame induction.

One of Goodnight’s most famous pieces is The Day the Wall Came Down,a larger-than-life depiction of five horses running through the ruble of the crumbled Berlin Wall. Inspired by the fall of the Berlin Wall, the sculpture received international acclaim and currently sits outside the Allied Museum in Berlin, with matching castings outside the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas, and at the entrance to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. According to the artist, the sculpture is not about horses, but about the freedom they represent.

Goodnight continues to find evocative subject matter in stories about human-animal bonds in the American West. As the born animal lover and rehabilitator explains on her website, wildlife is more than the subject matter to her: “I was born loving animals and the American West. ... Working from life was initially an excuse to be outdoors and near the horses, birds, and many other animals that shared my life. The reality, however, is that having a living, breathing model nearby not only provides information that a thousand photos couldn’t convey, it keeps me excited. Working from life also keeps me from becoming repetitious. The subtle differences of each living being have become my passion, whether I am sculpting or painting.”

The other 2016 Cowgirl Hall of Fame honorees are Marilyn Williams Harris, an Arizona rancher and environmentalist; the late Frances Rosenthal Kallison, a Texas rancher who documented Jewish history in the Lone Star State; and Pat North Ommert, a skilled trick rider and stuntwoman from California.

See more from Veryl Goodnight's work online. For more about the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, visit their website.