May 29, 2024 - Things to Do

Art Snack: Portlander Ivan McClellan's Black cowboys

Two Black cowboys racing horses in front of a crowd at a rodeo

"Rico and Cascio" from the Eight Seconds series about Black cowboys seen at Blue Sky Gallery. Photo: Ivan McClellan

Ivan McClellan left his home in Kansas to become a left coast creative, but a chance encounter led him to visit the Roy Leblanc Invitational Rodeo in Oklahoma and discover the culture of Black cowboys.

Why it matters: The Portland-based photographer shows how an aspect of Black culture can be so erased that even he — a Black man — could be unaware of it.

Catch up quick: There have been Black cowboys for centuries, and McClellan's photos in "Eight Seconds" show the culture today.

The big picture: One photo, "Rico and Cascio," captures the muscles and sinews of horse and man united in competition. It's a symphony of opposing forces, motion and stasis, white highlights, rich browns and dark shadows.

  • Some spectators are young and dressed in ripped jeans, ball caps and tank tops.
  • Others are in cowboy hats and plaid shirts. All are sitting on a fence beside the brown dirt of a rodeo arena.
  • All are Black.

McClellan compressed seven years of documentation into his book "Eight Seconds: Black Rodeo Culture," and an upcoming exhibit at Blue Sky Gallery.

If you go: "Eight Seconds" is on display at Blue Sky Gallery from June 6-29, and McClellan will give a talk at 4pm Saturday, June 8.


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