POWELL — Wyoming is a place of vast distances separating one small town from another, and in those distances are challenges. If you look, there is also opportunity.
Powell native Lindsay Linton Buk and her work, which has taken her over 15,000 miles, criss-crossing those distances, is proof of that. In Wyoming, there is the opportunity to work outside the mold and the chance to be an artist. There is the opportunity to be a Wyoming woman.
Linton Buk’s immersive exhibit Women in Wyoming will be displayed at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West to a worldwide audience this fall. Linton Buk, a Wyoming native filled with an adventurous spirit, left the state, but always felt pulled home.
“One of my biggest transformations coming home and creating this series was going from the perspective of, ‘Wyoming is limiting,’ which is a belief I held, to, once I moved back, really questioning that, wondering, was that true?” Linton Buk said.
“I think you have to be more inventive and creative here, but there is always something that can be done,” Linton Buk said. “And I really do think there is the potential to make an enormous impact in your community.”
Women in Wyoming is a statewide multimedia series that profiles the lives and influence of remarkable Wyoming women through podcasts and portrait photography. For nearly three years, the three chapters of the podcast has featured women as varied as Wyoming’s first female Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Kite, to abstract expressionist painter, artist and author Neltje, to the teenage participants of the Wyoming Latina Youth Conference. The culmination of her work, including audio interviews, photography and natural sounds, will make its worldwide debut at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody on Oct. 25.
“Lindsay’s honest and striking portraits show Wyoming women shaping our state through exuberance, persistence, intelligence and grace,” said Rebecca West, co-curator Women in Wyoming and curator of Plains Indian Cultures and the Plains Indian Museum at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. “These aren’t the superstars or media darlings—these are female superheroes in blue jeans and business suits, taking on the challenges of careers, families and gender roles, not to mention the task of chipping away at stereotypes and inequality.”
Linton Buk is a fifth-generation Wyoming woman, with family ties to the Big Horn Basin going back to the 1870s.
“We started off in Meeteetse, where my great great grandfather started the Meeteetse Mercantile and the first bank,” Linton Buk said. Her paternal grandfather started Linton’s Big R, and in a small community, the role of a ranching store can’t be understated.
“I grew up in Powell watching the contributions made by his small business. Our family was really philanthropic, and always, in a small town, you help wherever you can,” Linton Buk said.
But as a creative person, a female and an artist, Linton Buk wondered if there was a place for her in Wyoming.
“I never imagined that I would have a future in Wyoming. I’m creative and an artist, and I just think I always had big dreams,” she explained. “When I looked around our small town, I didn’t really see any examples of who I could become. I don’t think that is because it didn’t exist, but I think it is because when you live in a rural area or a small town, it is not always at the surface.”
She traveled the world, but for some reason, Wyoming called her back.
“That is a huge part of why I created Women in Wyoming, after continually getting pulled back here, and starting my own business,” Linton Buk, who is a professional photographer by trade, said.
“Once I got my photography studio off the ground, I really started looking deeper, thinking, ‘What can I do to make an impact here?’” she said. “That is where the inspiration came from, really wanting to uncover the depth and capacity of women in Wyoming, and bringing those stories to life.”
The mission of the documentary portrait series is to illuminate the power and contemporary strength and spirit of Wyoming women and girls.
“I think seeing is believing, and it is inspiring to see your peers out in the world doing amazing things,” Linton Buk said.
That inspiration is especially important for women and girls.
“It is powerful to see people who look like you out in the world, doing amazing things, whether that is in a leadership position, or making an impact through their artwork, or being a community leader,” Linton Buk said. “To see a reflection of yourself in those positions of power or influence, or just someone living their truth—that to me is a success.”
It can be isolating to live in a state as rural as Wyoming, but that is also one of its advantages: Because of Wyoming’s small population, we each have an advantage when it comes to making a difference, she said. Linton Buk’s personal journey in coming home, of being imprinted with Wyoming’s pull from birth, has fostered in her the hope of leaving the state a better place.
“Because of our small scale, we can make that a direct advantage,” Linton Buk said. “You have to keep your eyes open and look around, and you have to readjust yourself and be inventive, but I do think if you can put yourself in that mindset, you can do anything.”
The reality is, though, that we are still behind when it comes to equality for all, she said.
“We still have a long way to go to reach that true state of equality, so it is vital that young girls can imagine themselves as president, as senator, as a transformative artist,” Linton Buk said. “We still see the opposite of that in the media, when it is their bodies (emphasized) or something much more superficial.
“There is still a lot of room to celebrate women for their ambition and their intellect, and we can continue to provide those positive role models for girls and women of all ages,” she said.
It is for this reason that the Wyoming Equipoise Fund has been a long-time supporter of the Women in Wyoming project.
“The Equipoise Fund is honored to be a funder of Women in Wyoming. With her work, Lindsay exemplifies the Equipoise Mission: to energize, enrich, and encourage the vision, voice and visibility of Wyoming women.
“This is an important body of work… for today and Wyoming’s future,” Mickey Babcock, founder The Equipoise Fund, said.
Creating this work has been the most fulfilling project of her life, Linton Buk said.
“It just fills my soul, and I never thought I would be this creatively stretched or challenged—or fulfilled—and feeling like I am living my purpose,” she said.
Editor’s note: On Dec. 10, 1869, Wyoming territory passed the first law in United States history recognizing women’s right to vote and hold public office.
At The Sheridan Press, we are counting down to the 150th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the Equality State with a special series inspired by the Wyoming Office of Tourism’s “Year of Wyoming Women.” Highlighting a different inspiring Wyoming woman, the features are published on the 10th of every month. Explore the full series here!