Bessie Stringfield fought for civil rights and equality by doing what she loved despite the struggles and danger that came with riding motorcycles.
David Uhl’s Retro Motorcycling Woman Art
David Uhl’s fine art often depicts women and motorcycles, from pin up poses to paintings featuring real women who ride. This post specifically features some of his vintage style paintings of women riders.
David, born in Toledo, Ohio, and raised in Luna Pier, Michigan, now works out of Uhl Studios in Arvada, Colorado.
“Leading Ladies” is one of David’s more recent works, starring Cris Sommer-Simmons, one of the only American women who participated in the inaugural Cannonball Run. “Her impressive 20th place finish paid tribute to her idol and the namesake of her 1915 Harley-Davidson, Effie Hotchkiss, who became the first woman to ride cross country in 1915. Sought after by various museums and collectors, David felt that this original oil painting rightfully belonged in the possession of Cris and Pat. ‘I was especially interested in Cris Sommer-Simmons as she has a very special passion in common with me. She happens to love the romance of the history of women on motorcycles as much as I do. Enough for her to have composed a beautiful book on the subject, which sits next to my easel. Having this lovely slice of history in common with her has inspired me to do this painting of her. She was originally inspired by the story of Effie Hotchkiss, (she named her Harley Davidson after her) and even adopted one of Effie’s rituals, which especially intrigued me. Just as Effie did, Cris filled a small vial with water from the Atlantic Ocean and kept it with her throughout the entire journey to finally release it’s contents into the Pacific Ocean.'”
Vivian Bales was the first motorcycle magazine cover girl, known for several long distance motorcycle rides around the United States in the 1920s and 30s. Appearing on the cover of the Harley Davidson Enthusiast magazine in May and November of 1929, David Uhl painted this piece of her sitting atop her Harley with a bundle of blooming branches.
“Rose” was the fourth official “Woman of Harley”. David said, he painted this piece “to illustrate this idea I had about a beautifully strong female swinging into a service station in 1936, bucking the trend of letting your attendant do everything for you. She decides to pump her own gas and relegates the attendant to polishing her tail light.”
Each year since 2005 David created a commorative piece for the Sturgis Event. In 2010, his painting titled “70 & counting” features a lady rider stopping at the Devil’s Tower on her way to the inaugural festivities at the Black Hills Classic.
A woman kicks back on her 1949 WLA while reading the 50th anniversary copy of “The Enthusiast” magazine.
Ruth Helm, the fifth member of David Uhl’s Women of Harley collection, is a real-life WASP (Women’s Airforce Service Pilots). The scene depicts her just after landing her P-51 airplane in 1943, preparing to go for a spin on a 1940 Harley Knucklehead bobber.
Another of the Women of Harley collection is Jessi Combs, inspired by the WAVES of WWII, women who proudly served in the US Navy. “Jessi Combs (fastest woman on 4 wheels) was the model and Jim Wear (Rocky Mountain Motorcycle Museum) provided the 1945 US Navy Edition Harley-Davidson.”
Ruby was the first of the Women of Harley collection- “According to most of the town, Ruby is out of control with her wild ways in 1926. She also happens to be about 80 years ahead of her time. Ruby has become an icon for female Harley-Davidson® enthusiasts, because of her almost tangible independent spirit. This work is one of David Uhl’s most recognizable works in the field of motorcycle art, winning accolades in the magazine U.S Art as one of the top 50 prints of 1999. Print comes framed with certificate of authenticity.” Because there’s nothing quite like a motorcycling woman!
Visit the Uhl Studios website for more art and information.