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black cowboy

Gwenn Seemel
Allow additional travel time (Lenwood fitting in) and The original cowboy (Lenwood 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.)

Lenwood asked me if I was Irish, gesturing towards my green Chuck Taylors as if my shoes justified the question. This was the second time in the space of a week that a stranger had tried that line on me, but this time I played along. I’d been sneaking looks at him since I noticed that he had cowboy boots to go with his hat and leather vest. I’d never seen a black cowboy.

We were both on our way to Harlem. He was headed there for the African American Day Parade, and I was meeting up with another subject from the series. As the subway train jostled and whined, Lenwood explained the history of the word “cowboy.” Originally, it was a derogatory term only applied to black cowherds. The history contained in that one word floored me. I asked him then and there if he’d let me paint him for Empathetic Magic.

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