Critical Mass Top 50, 2013

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Ilona Szwarc

Riley, Clarendon, Texas

Remi, Vernon, Texas

Tayln, Canadian, Texas

Lariat, Gruver, Texas

Sam, Clarendon, Texas

Camree, Canadian, Texas

Carsen and Cooper, Canadian, Texas

Kaylee, Vernon, Texas

Sadie, Happy, Texas

Tierra, Adrian, Texas
Ilona Szwarc

“Rodeo Girls” explores gender role reversal among young girls in Texas, who compete in rodeos, engaging in a sport traditionally reserved for men. My portrait series examines how rodeo girls demonstrate strength and discipline as they project their femininity onto their well-groomed and pampered animals. The animals take on the feminine qualities and girls embrace masculine demeanor. Those girls adopted the dress code that follows male fashion system and many of them enjoy not having to look or behave in a feminine way. They grow up according to a male archetype and I am examining how their lives and identities are shaped by their surroundings. I came to know rodeo culture as a teenaged exchange student from Poland. Now many years later, I have returned to Texas to investigate a phenomenon that continues to amaze me. The photographs celebrate the beauty of the terrain and the idiosyncrasies of this old fashioned American tradition, which is recently vanishing. This series builds on my previous work, which explored the American Girl doll phenomenon – how young American girls collect customizable, look alike dolls.