Barbara Van Cleve: Pure Quill


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BARBARA VAN CLEVE: PURE QUILL, sponsored by the Sweet Grass Arts Alliance, spans Barbara Van Cleve’s photographic career and showcases her passion for ranch life in the West, women in ranching, photography by moonlight, rodeo as dance, the Spanish Missionary Trail in California and Mexico, and women and horses.

In the vernacular of the West, the term pure quill means “authentic, real, through and through”. Barbara Van Cleve’s gripping photographs of the West she knows and loves give vision to that term.

Born and raised on a working cattle and horse ranch in Montana’s Crazy Mountains, for seven decades Van Cleve has focused her lens on land and sky and the men, women and animals who animate it. In riveting compositions and captivating textures, her photographs dispel the Hollywood myths associated with the West, while conveying its true adventure and vibrant personalities.

Van Cleve, who lives in Big Timber, Montana, has chosen to tell her stories in black and white photographs that speak to the mind and heart. The photographs in this exhibit are part of her lifelong work included in a new book titled “Pure Quill: Photographs by Barbara Van Cleve, published in 2017 by University of New Mexico Press.

“Just give me my horse and saddle, some great open country, cattle and working cattle people, and I’ll do my work quietly, in all conditions, from pure perfection to rain, mud, dust and freezing blizzards,” she says of her photographs made on locations throughout the West, many of which were taken from horseback.

In February 2017, the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum announced that “Pure Quill” won the Western Heritage Award for Outstanding Photography Book.


February 1 – May 1, 2019: MonDak Heritage Center, Sidney
August 1 – September 1, 2019: Carbon County Arts Guild, Red Lodge

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