How To Make Equine Art

So I was hanging out with some artists around December of 2011, and we started talking about next year’s projects. After a little more wine and then most of the last bottle of Malbec, the conversation got way down. Like, “How about pictures of babies,” and “puppies anyone?” And in the spirit of that dionysian moment, I said, “Horses?”

The room got really quite, and this one guy in particular just looked at me. I laughed a little nervously, “Hey,” I said, “Just kidding!” No one spoke more about that. The subject shifted to women, then we ran out of wine, and then we all hung it up and went home.

But the next morning, only out of curiosity, I went on Amazon to look for books on the art history of the horse. It turned out there were a lot! I determined to choose one, and then I ordered five. You know how it goes on Amazon.

Two days later they all arrived, and I spent the rest of that day in full-on immersion. After looking at virtually everything that’s been done, all I could “see” were the cave paintings of horses at Lascaux and Chauvet. Later I found out that I was in pretty good company. Picasso was not famous for being a humble man, but about the cave drawings, he reportedly said, “We have lost the ability to draw and paint like that. We don’t know how to do that anymore.” By the end of that day, a knowing had swept over me like a tsunami, only in slow motion: I would make 21st century cave drawings!

As members of the Cro-Magnon species, our relationship to the horse is iconic, deeply embedded in our collective consciousness. In my review of the art history of the horse, I learned much about us as a species; how we have evolved over 35,000 years. And how the evolution of our social structures can be framed through our relationship to the horse. From hunter/gatherer societies in bands, tribes, and chiefdoms; through agrarian, feudal, warring nation state, to industrial society, to our present information society: Our relationship to the horse has evolved with us along a jerky continuum without interruption for 35,000 years.

For the next few weeks, I saw my life in the extreme chaos of a tsunami aftermath. I began reordering everything I was doing, shifting appointments, creating new times and spaces to work. Then I began to see the outline of a new order sketched out in the chaos: A new vision of work, a new way to discover visual space, a new way to engage with subject matter…. as a cave painter.

If you go to Asheville, North Carolina, there you find they still have mounted police patrolling around Pack Square. The biggest law enforcement issue for the mounted police is to get people to quit petting their horses.