French-American artist Gwenn Seemel is working to make a more empathetic world through art. In her new series, Empathetic Magic, she painted people who are outside the mainstream - first, hiding their differences; and then, embracing them. She writes that the series "is made up of images that are meant to inspire a desire to dig deeper into why different people do different things. It’s a recognition that true empathy is not pretending that you know what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes, but admitting that you have no idea and then listening to them." She adds:

The series is a collection of portraits of people or pairs who each have an aspect of their appearance or their selves that tends to be perceived as a disadvantage. The subjects are each painted twice: once how they feel they hide their differences or how they feel they should; and once how they flaunt them or how they wish they could. Participants include disabled people, old people, fat people, hairy people, people who struggle with mental illness, people of color, asexual people, queer people, and single mothers—and these identities often exist within the same individual, since humans are complex creatures.


Empathetic Magic is intended for those of us who believe we are accepting of others, while at the same time insisting that fat means a person is unhealthy, that a hairy back is gross, and that mental illness is just people overreacting. This work is for the judger and the judged in each of us.

See Gwenn's art at MT Burton Gallery in Surf City, NJ through July 9, or view more of her work on her website. See more from Empathetic Magic below:

GwennSeemelEvelynWhite Bread (Evelyn fitting in) and The Activist (Evelyn standing out)

GwennSeemelLenwoodAllow Additional Travel time (Lenwood fitting in) and The Original Cowboy (Lenwood standing out)


GwennSeemelRacheleCateyesFat Shaming On The Grass (Rachele fitting in) and Superfat Crop Top Girl Gang (Rachele standing out)

Top photo: Black and White (Nikki and Moe fitting in) and Mother and Child (Nikki and Moe standing out)

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