Collector’s Fo­cus: Art of the Horse

Western Art Collector - - CONTENTS - By John O’hern

Xenophon, the Greek philoso­pher and stu­dent of Socrates, wrote, “A horse is a thing of beauty… none will tire of look­ing at him as long as he dis­plays him­self in his splen­dor.” Mem­bers of the North Amer­i­can genus Equus mi­grated west across the Ber­ing Land Bridge mil­lions of years ago and pop­u­lated the land as far south as Africa. Horses be­came ex­tinct in North Amer­ica, and their de­scen­dants were brought here by the Span­ish in the 16th cen­tury. The Span­ish horses, al­though do­mes­ti­cated, are the same bi­o­log­i­cal species as the horses that once roamed freely on the plains. Horses that strayed have re­pop­u­lated the plains of their an­ces­tors. Yet a con­tro­versy per­sists as to whether the horses are na­tive or feral, a dis­tinc­tion that af­fects their fu­ture.

Greg Beecham’s paint­ing Wind in Their Hair, Wild Mares of the Onaqui Herd, de­picts horses in the Onaqui Moun­tain Herd Man­age­ment Area in Utah, where the herd is man­aged by the Bureau of Land Man­age­ment to keep it at a size the land can sup­port. Beecham and his wife

en­joy rid­ing their horses high in the Rock­ies in Wy­oming. His motto is, “Do all things as unto the Lord, and get so good you can’t be ig­nored.”

Beecham’s paint­ings have a live­li­ness and depth be­cause of his care­ful ma­nip­u­la­tion of light and thick im­pasto of paint. The wild horses in Wind in Their Hair seem to oc­cupy their own 3-di­men­sional space within the 2-di­men­sional pic­ture plane. Jill Soukup also ap­plies paint freely, push­ing dis­tant horses into ab­strac­tion yet main­tain­ing depth in the closely packed com­po­si­tion of Grey Sw­erve. Her strong com­po­si­tions come from a ca­reer as a graphic de­signer be­fore she de­voted her­self full-time to paint­ing.

She says, “Through my dis­parate sub­jects— static ur­ban and ar­chi­tec­tural scenes, and the richly ki­netic mo­ments that de­fine Western ranch life—i con­stantly work to hone and de­velop my craft by chal­leng­ing the ab­stract com­po­nents of a paint­ing to come to to­gether in an in­ten­tional, representational way.”

Even horses rest—howard Post de­picts two idle horses loung­ing un­der a Shade Tree by the River. The cool river flows through the hot land­scape and spots of sun­light shine through the leaves. Post also taught graphic arts un­til he

de­cided to paint the ac­tiv­i­ties of the ranch life he had known since he was a boy. Post’s paint­ing style is dis­tinctly his own, with re­minders of May­nard Dixon and Wayne Thiebaud. The edges in his paint­ings are al­ways lively as dif­fer­ent colors in­ter­act in an ef­fect called “ha­la­tion.” Post’s mas­tery of the phe­nom­e­non sug­gests the heat of the ranch en­vi­ron­ment. The colors are rich in the rocks on the far side of the river, al­though we in­ter­pret them as bleached by the sun. The mus­cu­la­ture of the stand­ing horse in the shade is de­fined by pas­sages of blue.

Lynn Wade agrees that “it’s all about light and shadow.” She was raised in the horse coun­try of Mary­land and is an ex­pe­ri­enced horse­woman. She de­picts a mare and her foal in Room to Grow, the mare in­tent on graz­ing and the colt in­tent on who­ever is watch­ing them. Wade had al­ways drawn horses, but at the age of 40 she picked up a paint brush for the first time. Men­tored by Lan­ford Mon­roe, who had been in­flu­enced by John Cly­mer, and Bob Kuhn, who lived near her in Con­necti­cut, Wade car­ries on a distin­guished tra­di­tion.

The beauty of the horse on its own, un­fet­tered for work or sport, brings to mind a pas­sage from the nat­u­ral­ist Henry Be­ston: “For the an­i­mal shall not be mea­sured by man. In a world older and more com­plete than ours, they move fin­ished and com­plete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never at­tained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not un­der­lings: they are other na­tions, caught with our­selves in the net of life and time, fel­low pris­on­ers of the splen­dor and tra­vail of the earth.”

In the pages of this spe­cial sec­tion, read­ers

will find equine sub­ject mat­ter from some of the lead­ing artists and gal­leries, the in­spi­ra­tion be­hind the art­work, as well as in­sight on col­lect­ing these mas­ter­ful works.

Pen­cil, col­ored pen­cil and oil artist Bar­bara Anne Ram­sey de­picts the hard­work­ing na­ture of draft horses, many of which still work on Western ranches to­day, ex­plain­ing the im­por­tance she finds in hon­or­ing these work­horses through her art. “I try to cap­ture the unique per­son­al­ity and spirit of each of these pow­er­ful horses for ev­ery­one to en­joy,” Ram­sey says.

For Cor­rina John­son, her love of horses and pas­sion for cre­at­ing eques­trian art be­gan as a child. John­son ex­plains that grow­ing up in the coun­try she of­ten spent time at the home of her neigh­bors, who owned sev­eral horses. “I was al­ways horse crazy and never grew out of it. I loved draw­ing and paint­ing them,” she says. John­son has owned her cur­rent horse for the past 20 years.

“I am a fifth-generation Colorado na­tive who has been living and breath­ing horses for as long as I can remember,” says mul­ti­tal­ented artist Cas­san­dra Sharon, whose work is fea­tured at Danc­ing Wolf Gallery. A drawer, painter and sculp­tor, Sharon says she’s ex­per­i­mented with a va­ri­ety of medi­ums “in a rain­bow of colors, tex­tures and pat­terns.” Her sculp­ture Blan­ket for a Friend is crafted from ce­ramic pa­per clay.

Fine art pho­tog­ra­pher Brady Wil­lette be­gan The War Pony Pro­ject as a way of hon­or­ing the his­tory of the Na­tive Amer­i­can horse tribes and the horses that helped pro­tect their tra­di­tions and lib­erty. In his piece, Red, White and Blue / Stand­ing Rock, pho­tographed on the Stand­ing Rock In­dian Reser­va­tion, Wil­lette says he used “pa­tri­otic colors to rec­og­nize the long his­tory of Amer­i­can In­di­ans serv­ing in the Armed Forces.”

All of fine art pho­tog­ra­pher Bri Cimino’s im­ages are shot on horse­back, in­fus­ing a deeper sense of con­nec­tion to the eques­trian sub­ject mat­ter of her work. “That par­tic­u­lar van­tage, cou­pled with the anonymity of the hu­man sub­jects, in­vites us to iden­tify with these rid­ers and, for the mo­ment that we ex­pe­ri­ence a pho­to­graph, to feel our­selves in that state of com­mu­nion with horse and land,” says Cimino.

The oil paint­ings of Karen Boy­lan of­ten take a close-up, detailed ap­proach, cap­tur­ing

“Aside from ac­cu­rate ren­der­ing of anatomy, I feel the most im­por­tant as­pect of an equine por­trait is the play of light and soft­ness in the coat, tail and mane.” — Sarah Kennedy, artist

the glim­mer in a horse’s eye or the veins in its face. “I don’t feel the need to paint the en­tire an­i­mal to con­vey the mo­tion or emo­tions of my sub­ject. The flip of a mane or the look in the eye can con­vey their spirit, their an­tic­i­pa­tion or just how cute a lit­tle colt can be,” Boy­lan says. She adds that when col­lect­ing art­work, the pri­mary mo­ti­va­tion should be the en­ergy and ex­cite­ment the viewer feels from a paint­ing.

Char­coal artist Rox Cor­bett en­cour­ages col­lec­tors to “embrace black and white and monochro­matic work,” adding that the scarcity of this type of art­work can add in­her­ent value to it. “I love char­coal for its depth, rich­ness and ver­sa­til­ity, even [though] it is such a sim­ple medium—burnt wood,” says Cor­bett. “I use it to celebrate horses in all their power and beauty, whether un­touched by hu­man hands, or do­ing the work we ask of them,” she says.

Sarah Kennedy of Kennedy Desert Art has been paint­ing horses since she was six years old. “I am in­spired when I am able to de­sign my paint­ings so that the viewer has a unique ex­pe­ri­ence of the sub­ject. In Two Step, the rider is de­lib­er­ately cropped, and the per­spec­tive of the horse at front and cen­ter cre­ates a per­sonal, in­ti­mate con­nec­tion.”

For those who can’t get enough of those Western sen­si­bil­i­ties, The Stam­pede Western In­vi­ta­tional Art Ex­hibit gives art en­thu­si­asts the op­por­tu­nity to meet and pur­chase art­work from some of the most renowned artists, with the open­ing night gala kick­ing off on June 21. “Stam­pede Western is the best kept se­cret in the Western art world,” says founder and or­ga­nizer Shirley Hol­land, adding that up-and-com­ing artists Chad Pop­ple­ton, Jeremy Win­borg and Don Oelze will be in at­ten­dance.

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5. Bar­bara Anne Ram­sey, Three Bays, col­ored pen­cil, 16 x 20" 6. Bar­bara Anne Ram­sey, Wind Blowin’, col­ored pen­cil, 22 x 22" 7. Rox Cor­bett, Buf­falo Dreams, char­coal on rag pa­per, 25 x 17"

8. Bri Cimino, Plaza Blanca, archival pig­ment

print, 18 x 20" 9. Bri Cimino, Char­lotte, archival pig­ment print, 20 x 30" 10. Rox Cor­bett, Tango, char­coal on rag pa­per, 39 x 22" 11. Stam­pede Western In­vi­ta­tional, The Mil­ford Gang, oil on can­vas, 24 x 24", by Jody Robb. 9

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16 12. Sarah Kennedy, Two Step, oil on linen panel, 16 x 12" 13. Brady Wil­lette, Red, White and Blue/stand­ing Rock, pho­tog­ra­phy and dig­i­tal art, 27 x 36"

14. Cor­rina John­son, Out of the Red, oil, 36 x 24" 15. Cor­rina John­son, Is­abelle, oil, 24 x 36" 16. Karen Boy­lan, Un­bri­dled, oil, 20 x 16" 17. Karen Boy­lan, Cute As a But­ton, 10 x 8" 18. Danc­ing Wolf Gallery, Blan­ket for a Friend, ce­ramic pa­per clay, 15 x 13", by Cas­san­dra Sharon.

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