At the Booth Museum, Don Coen’s portraits humanize an often invisible population

The exhibit is on display now through July 24
Don Coen: The Migrant Series
© Don Coen, Angel, 2001-2010. Acrylic airbrush and pencil on canvas. Image courtesy of the artist.

At 10 by 7 feet, the sheer size of Don Coen’s portraits is enough to draw attention, but it’s his subjects—migrant farm laborers—that really stand out. Equipped with a camera, the 80-year-old artist spent 10 years getting to know migrant workers across the U.S., from California to Florida, and another decade reproducing his photographs in airbrushed acrylic back at his Boulder, Colorado, studio. The resulting 15 paintings, on display at Booth Western Art Museum through July 24, have a hyperrealistic quality. “People go into Whole Foods and see flowers and food, but they’re clueless about how it got there,” says Coen, who grew up on a cattle farm. “I am trying to put a face on these people.” Booth director Seth Hopkins says Coen’s feeling of kinship and gratitude toward his subjects comes through in his work, which humanizes an often invisible population.

This article originally appeared in our July 2016 issue.