Lucy Maude (b. 1994 London, UK) is a multidisciplinary artist currently working in Kentucky. Their work revolves around imperialism, fantasy, and performative gender in the contemporary American West. They are also the art editor of Contra Viento, a literary arts magazine publishing work on rangelands of the world. 

“My work focuses on the working American West through the eyes of someone who was failed by it. I worked as a cowboy for nearly four years on cattle ranches around the Southwest, and was forced to abandon the Western American dream after experiencing the discrimination and labor exploitation that is rampant in the ranching world. The cowboy is a mythic figure, an avatar for America itself, and he embodies all the traits of good, American masculinity. White, strong, polite, handsome, and with an indefatigable work ethic, the cowboy stands astride our collective imaginations as an emblem of all that is admirable about the United States. He represents freedom, rugged individuality, and a relationship to nature and animals in a way that provokes yearning across internationally diverse demographics. He is sexually attractive, in some form, to every gender and orientation. In my work I seek to examine the ways that cowboys are mascots for the American Empire: how they uphold its virtues, spread its religion and culture, and offer a beguiling face to mask its genocidal, imperialist capitalism. My work hinges on performance: drag performance; the performance of photographing the West; gendered labor performances; and the performance of self that the West demands of its cowboy and would-be cowboy denizens.

“As our climate apocalypse hits ever harder, food production, land use, and labor will need to be at the forefront of our vision for a better world. Agricultural laborers are unprotected, ignored, and often might as well be unpaid. Farm and ranch workers suffer from absurdly high rates of suicide (a statistic that has been misrepresented as farmers and ranchers – a crucial difference), and face physical and mental harm daily in their workplaces. As a white, college-educated, able-bodied person, my experience in ranch work was a massively privileged one – arguably in the top 1% of ag work experiences. Yet the strictures of agricultural work are so great that, after four years, I too suffered from severe depression and suicidal ideation. I am now five years and counting from my last ag job, but still uncovering the impacts left on me by ag work. When envisioning a better world for agriculture, ecology, and food, labor has to remain fixed in the forefront. Class, gender, and whiteness all contribute to the perpetuation of deleterious American pastoral fantasies, and the lure of the cowboy is no exception. Agricultural reform in the United States will always, eventually, run up against the figure of the cowboy, guarding this genocidal nation’s most cherished ideals. Dismantling who the cowboy is and what he does will aid in creating more just agricultural systems, land reform, and further anti-imperialist queer liberation.”