Showgirls Return to the Spotlight for History’s Sake (Exhibit/Reno)

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RENO, Nev. The American West has inspired art like the bullet-spitting buffalo hunters of Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell’s bronco riders. But the canon may not yet be ready for Terry Ritter, a former Las Vegas showgirl whose canvases include “The Red Boas,” ecstatic torsos swirling in a sea of red feathers.

Forget the Ash Can School. Behold the Can-Can School.

Ms. Ritter, 54, is featured in what is billed as the first Showgirl Art Competition Exhibition, which opened Friday at the Nevada State Historical Society here.

The small exhibition, which includes a rare turkey ruff boa, bejeweled G-strings and other showgirl artifacts, along with about 20 paintings, is part of a fledgling preservation movement by former showgirls eager to claim and interpret their own history. Dozens of dancers gathered for the opening, aware that the legacy of the lavish and long-gone production shows like the Lido de Paris at the recently imploded Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas is quickly vanishing.

“It’s preserving a section in time, like Degas and the dancers,” said Ms. Ritter, a strawberry blonde who began painting in 1982 between acts at Les Folies Bergere at the Tropicana, setting up her easel in the backstage shower because it had the best light.

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