Arts » Written + Spoken Word

Review: Blake Little: Photographs from the Gay Rodeo

The Eiteljorg Museum of American & Indians and Western Art



5 stars

Eiteljorg Museum's newest book, Blake Little: Photographs from the Gay Rodeo, extends the experience of the groundbreaking exhibit that engaged visitors during 2014 and has toured to art galleries in Salina, Kansas, and St. Louis and currently is at the University of Arizona Museum of Art. The meticulously curated exhibit loses none of its vibrancy in the book featuring 41 black and white archival pigment prints that showcase Blake Little's renown as a portrait photographer and an "insider" whose action shots become lifelike eye blinks more so than frozen moments.

At the time of the exhibit's tenure at the Eiteljorg in 2014, I returned several times and after each visit I came away with a deeper sense of the dedication and camaraderie required from a rodeo, and I became a more astute observer of what goes on at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. The intersection of 38th and Fall Creek may not be The West, where rodeo is a way of life, but humanity is a trait that transcends place. What struck me viewing the exhibit, and now with closer examination of the book-in-hand, is how little I had understood the attitudes toward people grouped as LGBT and the resulting alienation. Growing up in New York in an arts-oriented environment, people were people and what mattered was dependability — code phrase: "Show up ready to work as a team."

The exhibit was/is groundbreaking. Maybe the Eiteljorg will find a slot for its return after the tour ends. Anyone who missed it should have another opportunity to be in the presence of the vivid photographs. Until then, the book opens us to the story of people who, at the bottom line, are people.

Adding to the understanding of the place of Gay Rodeo in the larger context of living and working in The West are finely wrought essays by Johanna M. Blume, Eiteljorg curator of western art; Gregory Hinton, author, lecturer, filmmaker, playwright and creator/producer of the Out West™ program series; historian Jim Wilke; and Eiteljorg president and CEO John Vanausdall.

The book is available for purchase at the Eiteljorg's Museum Store and online at


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