Flores LaDue – ‘First Lady’ of the Calgary Stampede

‘Flores LaDue’ by Ruth Vickers (Oil on masonite. 40″ x 40″)

A couple of months ago, I was on a mission to replace a tattered (but well-loved) living room chair and ottoman with two occasional chairs. Being the budget-minded person that I am, I checked out online sources for gently-used options and found a spectacular set of chairs.

But that’s not what this blog entry is about…

Through this chair-buying transaction, I was connected (indirectly) to an absolutely amazing artist by the name of Ruth Vickers. One of Ruth’s paintings – a seascape – hung on the wall of Colleen’s master bedroom (previous owner of amazing chairs that I bought). I commented on the painting and technique and Colleen said that it was her sister’s work (Ruth). Long story short, we somehow got to talking and a link was made between me, the Calgary Stampede (I’m on the Ag Media Committee) and a very interesting and rodeo-relevant piece of Ruth’s work. Colleen mentioned that her sister had done a painting of the Stampede’s ‘First Lady’ Flores LaDue.

As some of you might know, this year marks the 100th year of the Calgary Stampede – ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’. Guy Weadick (whose face graces the Stampede poster this year) is the ‘Father of the Frontier Show’ and the originator of the Calgary Stampede. One century ago, Weadick (with the help of many other rodeo-advocates) got everything started in Calgary. A successful man, Weadick made quite a mark in the cowboy world through this and other efforts. His legend lives on.

But behind every successful man, there is a woman. Isn’t that what they say?Flores LaDue, the stage name of one Grace Bensell, is that woman. Both accomplished trick ropers, Guy and Flores worked the vaudeville circuit performing stunts in western acts all across North America and Europe. They eventually settled together in Western Canada and have found a final resting place in High River. Quite a unique couple, I’d say, with a unique history.

Ruth Vickers is a prolific artist but not well-known. Particularly not for her western art. I had that chance to chat with Ruth by phone a few weeks ago; a lovely lady. She said that she was greatly inspired (as many of us are) by history and by passionate people that go ‘against the grain’ and offer inspiration through their activities and contributions. Flores LaDue and her life and ‘trickery’ inspired Ruth Vickers and Ruth Vickers was inspired to paint her.

I had the opportunity to view Ruth’s masterful work of art at her mother’s house in High River this past week. It is truly remarkable piece as you can see. The dimensions of the piece are 3′ x 4′ and – yes folks – it is for sale! I am in the process of ‘working my networks’ to see if we can get this magnificent piece of art on display prior to and during the Stampede in July this year. Perhaps even find a buyer!

UPDATE: ‘Working the networks’ paid off.  I managed to get Ruth hooked up with some amazing women affiliated with the annual LaDue Ladies Lunch. Long story-short, on July 5th, 2012, Ruth’s painting was successfully auctioned off at the LaDue Ladies Lunch. Ruth was in attendance. I missed the event but received word of the sale via text. I was so excited for Ruth! What an artist! What a story! So happy to have played a small role in it!

For more information on Ruth Vickers, the artist, and her work, please drop me an email! I will happily connect you to Ruth and her family! Check out Ruth’s amazing work at: http://cargocollective.com/ruthvickersartist

Check out a related blog that I wrote for the Calgary Stampede here!