November 23, 2014

The Dark Horse Series

This is the seventh in a series of posts taking you back through a history of my work, from its very realistic roots and on to my abstracts (see previous posts Why Aren’t My Paintings PRETTY For God’s Sake , So You Think Artists Are Lazy?, Stripped Down and Broken Open: Giving Birth to Art , Of Transitions and the Place Between, An Uncomfortable But Compelling Push-Pull and New Mexico Isn’t for Sissies). This exploration was spurred on by a reader’s question about my process and inspiration, particularly of my New Mexico horse abstracts. Little did she or I know what her simple query was about to open. I hope you all are enjoying this art journey into the past as much as I am. It is showing me, for the first time, the trajectory of my work, and is going a long way toward pointing me to future paintings.

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The Dark Horse Series

So here I am in New Mexico, a stranger in a strange land. By early December the snows had come in earnest and were here to stay until spring. I’d never lived anywhere that received more than an inch or two of snow, maybe three times a year, so this was new to me. I ended up buying snow shoes to walk across my land. And a snow shovel!

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I’d been most fearful of driving and my 3/4 mile long dirt road is not plowed or sanded since it’s private. There is one very steep spot that winds to a deep drop off that was most troubling. But nothing worse than getting my car stuck several times that first year happened and I am now a seasoned snow driver–sort of.

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In fact I’d been afraid of what living with snow might mean but I quickly came to love it. The sun would come out after every storm lighting the snow like magic and casting every color of blue shadow imaginable.

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Elk came to my yard. Neighbors thought they were coming down from the mountain because the snow was too deep for them to forage up there. So they’d arrive on my land in the dark of night and dig their troughs to find the grasses. You should have seen them under a full moon, silhouetted against the snow. Wow.

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There was also a small herd of horses pastured on the four acres in front of my house. Their people lived In Truchas, but not nearby. They were rather skittish at first but, slowly, we got to know each other.

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Then, in the middle of what could only be called a blizzard, a little one was born. I saw her with her mama just after the sun came up. No spring birth this, her people didn’t even know the mare was pregnant. This wasn’t good. I knew they didn’t have a phone so I left a message with one of their relatives and, along with a neighbor and a friend, worked to try to save her. The gates were locked and there was no lifting her out of the frozen pasture. High winds and deep snow made everything difficult, especially carrying the extra-sized bales of hay from my neighbor’s barn, up my road, to make a bed and some covering for her. There was no shelter in the pasture. We banked the hay around her but she was still starting to freeze. Just in the nick of time her people arrived with keys and helped to get the baby, her mama, and an aunt into my neighbor’s barn about 1/2 mile away.

The little foal survived her untimely birth and was named Davida. I don’t have any digital pictures of her when she was very young but here she is during her first spring. She’s standing in hay I’d just delivered.

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In fact her people had suffered a terrible tragedy and I’d asked if I could care for the horses until they had had time to grieve. It was a small thing I could do. Soon the horses were moved out onto the llano and I would drive there to feed them a couple of times a day, from the winter into spring.

We became close, the horses and I (the following four photos were shot by my good friend Kevin Hulett):

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Here’s my girl as a teenager…

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And there she is on the right, nearly grown. Aren’t they just stunning? They’re descended from Peruvian Pasos:

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During this time I began a body of work titled The Dark Horse Series in which I explored shadow and light, both in my inner and outer worlds. I’ve said before that I came to New Mexico to heal and the land itself made demands on me. The first step was to let go of everything I’d held as true about myself, to sort of shatter… and to pick up the pieces, deciding how to put myself back together again, a process that continues to this day.

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These darker paintings were a refection of this deep and meaningful, but difficult, work I was doing at the time. In some ways their titles are as important as the paintings themselves. And, of course, my dark charges were an integral part of this work, as evidenced by the series title. I found them to be great teachers. If I was false with them, if I was anything but authentic, they wouldn’t have anything to do with me. They actively called me on my stuff and demanded that I be real. It was excellent practice.

These paintings are the very first horse pieces I did, and are the heritage of my later work. I give you The Dark Horse Series in the order they were painted:

This piece is titled Going There. If you look on the horizon line to the left you’ll see the view of my house, coming up my road, that you’ve all seen many times:

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This is Living With Fire….

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… and The Dark Night, a simplified representation of me feeding the horses

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… Child of Darkness whose symbols came to me out of some old knowing…

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… The Awakening

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… The Seers…

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… Emergence…

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 … and The Arrival which features Davida and her mom…

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On Monday I will show you a divergence from the horse paintings, another transitional period which did, ultimately, bring me to a large series of abstracted horses. Until then…

Love to you all,


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