What’s a Chinese-American cowgirl to do? Frontier mythology has excluded at best, scapegoated at worst, the Chinese immigrants who labored throughout the West. The Cowboy Artists of America (CAA) has had but one non-white and not a single non-male member since its founding in 1965. And the U.S. president won’t stop calling COVID-19 “the Chinese virus.” Enter stephanie mei huang and the foul lump in my throat, a multi-media body of work—meant to be exhibited in multiple postponed, virtual and appointment-only shows in Los Angeles and elsewhere—that addresses the racial grief of the contemporary Chinese-American situation. Elements include sly re-workings of Western-themed dime novels, a rocking horse that shrieks as it oscillates, a video of huang’s parafictional induction into the CAA, and various self-portraits as a cowboy, done in all the relevant styles. Will parody heal huang’s wounds? Only time will tell. In the meantime, it must be admitted, cowboy boots, fringe, and an equine companion suit her well. And why not? Off into the sunset, indeed.
—Lori Waxman 2020-10-02 9:43 AM