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woman

Gwenn Seemel
White bread (Evelyn fitting in) and The activist (Evelyn standing out)
2017
acrylic on bird’s eye piqué
each painting 18 inches in diameter

Fitting in $1800 | Standing out $1800
(Email me for details.)

Evelyn appeared in my life like moms of friends always seemed to appear when I was a kid. I looked up one day and there she was, a calm and benevolent presence. I had met her son Gabe in 2006 when he curated my work into a group show at the Portland Art Center. Evelyn always kept up with Gabe’s projects, and she had watched both our careers evolve over the years.

At some point, she offered herself as a portrait subject, should I ever create a series where her face and her story would make a difference. As soon as I came up with the concept for Empathetic Magic, Evelyn was my first call.

Through our interviews, a mom became a person. I saw Gabe’s curiosity and resilience reflected in her. She told me how she used to get blonde highlights. Her hairdresser discouraged this choice based on her coloring, but that advice only made Evelyn more determined. The bleaching was an act of both fitting in and standing out—fitting in by following white guidelines for beauty and standing out because she’d been told she wasn’t the right color for it.

For more about the making of The activist, check out this video.