Meet Sazerac, the first horse in my new mixed media equine sculpture series. Sazerac is a jazzy horse, inspired by New Orleans. He’s mellow as a fine whiskey with a touch of fire.
Requiring many steps to complete, these mixed media sculptures are a journey of art, fine craft, decision making, and most importantly playful creation. The horses begin with a foraging trip to find legs from the many trees and shrubs on my property. I like using fruit wood and flowering shrubs, which are easy to shape while green, and become quite hard during the drying process. The legs for this series are exclusively forsythia. As I forage, I am looking for limbs which suggest the anatomy of the horse, bumps and protrusions that echo fetlocks, chestnuts, hocks, knees, etc. From my basket of gatherings, I sort legs into fronts and backs; then I find pairs that go together. These groupings are sized, then bundled together for drying. Some of the legs are shaped while green to push the suggestion of animation.
After the sets of legs are determined, I begin to sculpt the horses with a white clay body. Each horse evolves organically, with its own gestures and personality. Using a variety of found objects, I press a pattern into the soft clay. Then I position the legs as they will appear after firing, checking for balance, anatomy, and temperament. I note which legs will go with each horse before I remove them for drying and firing. Drying the wood, as well as the clay takes patience- at least a month.
After the clay is fired, each set of legs are married to the selected horse using a special adhesive. I give the adhesive 24 hours to cure, before I create the final musculature where legs join to the horse’s trunk. Over time, with much experimentation, I have developed a proprietary blended compound that stays soft long enough to allow me to build the muscles and flesh that blend the legs into the horse’s body, then dries hard, bonding to the fired clay. As everything cures, the horses get their own paddock to keep them safe. As you can see from the photo, the drying process involves shrinkage, so sometimes another coat of the blended compound is applied to the upper legs before the finish work begins.After everything is dry, each horse gets a base coat of black acrylic paint. When dry, each horse is hand rubbed with colored metallic pigments, and sealed with clear acrylic glaze.
I enjoy watching the interaction of the horses in their paddock after each application. The copper green horse stands alone, while the black horses seem to group apart after he is reintroduced to the herd. When all receive their finishes, they again come back together as a herd. When the sealer is dry, I use a fine gauge wire to create hairstyles and attitude for each horse. In the preview, you can see a close up view of Sazerac, detailing his pressed clay texture, metallic finish, articulation of limbs merging wooden legs with ceramic body, and copper wire mane.
Liberté, at right, was completed on the 4th of July. His hand rubbed metallic finish echoes the copper patina of the Statue of Liberty, with an explosion of fireworks in his mane and tail. This sculpture is dedicated “with liberty and justice for all,” especially for the least of us. Detail photo below shows ceramic body with textured patterns, cured forsythia legs, acrylic base coat under metallic hand rubbed metallic finish, and copper wire hair finish.
The third horse in this series is Galaxay. Galaxy is the eternal horse; he glows in subtle shades of the blue heaven above. Sazerac, Liberté, and Galaxy can be seen at the 610 Arts Collective on Clinton Street, Ridgway Colorado. Hours: Monday-Saturday 10:00 am-5:00 pm. Sculptures are 18″ tall; $250. If not in the area, purchase and shipping can be arranged by calling the Gallery and speaking to Trisha: 970-318-0150 or visiting this link: purchase a Dream Horse