Leila Armstrong’s flat, colourful paintings transform found images in order to gently satirise the conservative gender roles and exaggerated machismo found in classic Western iconography. Drawing from illustrations in a Whitman Big Little Book published in 1968, she explores an alternative relationship between The Lone Ranger and his side-kick Tonto. In small dioramas, narrative fragments are transformed into 3 dimensional playgrounds where guns point outward at imaginary enemies and cowboys have private conversations at the rodeo. Comic strip-style voice bubbles are augmented by longer texts drawn from sources such as Zane Grey’s “Amber’s Mirage” (1929), calling into question the simplistic romanticism of the genre and suggesting more complex relationships between characters. The title Melody Time Ranch is drawn from the name of Gene Autry’s legendary Melody Ranch and Disney’s animated film Melody Time (1948), referencing both the golden age of Westerns and the whimsical, cartoon-like quality of Armstrong’s work.
Leila Armstrong is a visual artist and writer who currently resides in Lethbridge, AB. Born in Vancouver, B.C., Armstrong studied at Kwantlen College, the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, and Simon Fraser University. She has a M.A. in Media Studies from Concordia University which she believes justifies her (un)healthy fascination with popular culture.