Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Five Centuries of Florida Cattlemen History


Photographer Bob Stone gave a talk at the Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens in the Capen House (633 Osceola Avenue, Winter Park, FL). It was a crowded event so seating was limited. I went back to the car and got my artist stool so I could get to work sketching. A few seats did remain open, so Pam managed to sit as well.

The cattlemen history began way back in the 1500s when Spanish settlers first brought cattle to Florida. Raising cattle has been a long tradition in Florida. One cattlemen explained it this way, "You can plant crops, but at the end of the harvest you have to load that crop onto the train. The cattle just walk onto the train themselves." It is possible that the word cowboy originated as a derogatory reference to blacks who worked raising the cows. One woman in the back row was a real character who clearly has been raised in the cattle culture. She pointed out that some whips used to be 15 feet long and someone she knew could flick a match out of your lips from 15 feet away.

Bob had an amazing collection of historic photos that showed how raising cattle has changed over the years. Ranchers used to create cattle "dips," or troughs in the ground and fill them with a poison that killed the bugs. When development encroached, these toxic sites had to be cleared.

Christianity has long been ingrained in cattleman culture. One photo showed a cowboy being baptized in a metal cattle trough, while other photos showed bull riders praying before getting on the back of a bull.

After the talk, Rachel Frisby invited everyone to see the exhibit, "Lay of the Land: The Art of Florida's Cattle Culture." This show, in collaboration with the Florida Cattleman's Foundation, explored the 500 years of Florida cattle culture through art and hand-crafted items such as saddles and spurs. My favorite discovery at the exhibit was the sketchbooks of Sean Sexton. He has been documenting life on a cattle ranch in his sketchbooks since 1973. I desperately wanted to flip through the sketchbooks, but they were behind glass.


Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at analogartistdigitalworld@gmail.com

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