Donna Howell-Sickles' subject of empowered cowgirl figures dates back to 1972 when she stumbled across a 1950s hand-tinted postcard. It featured a waving cowgirl and under it was the inscription: "Greetings for a Real Cowgirl of the Southwest." The notion of a woman sitting atop her horse in period costume appealed to the artist. "But back then I didn't think they were real cowgirls," say Howell-Sickles. "At least none who might look like the one on my postcard. The real/unreal aspect is what I liked. When I started I never gave the women faces. They had mouth, bright red mouths that were a touch off to the side. It was if you had caught a glimpse of something frozen in time. My intent was to create a generalized western persona, rather than a specific personality."
The character type, Howell-Sickles learned, was real back in the 1910s and 1920s and is readily described: A woman who'd traveled with the Wild West Show and ridden bulls in front of crowds filling the likes of Madison Square Garden. A woman unafraid of a challenge, and shamelessly happy.
Her works are mixed-media paintings on paper and oils on canvas. She melds shapes of blue, white and gray with accents of red, black and turquoise.
Her works currently hang in several major Western collections: the National Museum of Wildlife Art, Jackson, Wyoming; the Buffalo Bill Historical Center Museum, Cody, Wyoming; the Tucson Museum of Art, Tucson, Arizona; and, The National Cowgirl Hall of Fame, Henderson, Texas. She has been featured in Southwest Art, American Cowboy Magazine, and many other publications.