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Unbridled Beauty: Images of the Horse in American Art


The Wildling Art Museum located in the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley, a museum devoted to art of America's wilderness, is presenting "Unbridled Beauty: Images of the Horse in American Art" June 21--September 21, 2003. (right: Thomas Hart Benton, Running Horses, 1955, lithograph, from the Collection of the Beach Museum of Art, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS.)

The exhibition, which includes a variety of horse impressions in all media, dating from the mid-19th century to the present, was curated by Jessica Reichman, an art historian who has worked for a variety of museums and arts organizations in Arizona, Louisiana, Kansas, Washington D.C. and Santa Barbara. Explaining her premise in selecting works for this exhibition, Ms. Reichman has said that "throughout the history of art, the horse has engaged artists as a universally powerful archetypal image symbolizing heroism, strength and graceful beauty. Additionally, Americans have treasured the notion of the wild horse as a symbol of freedom and unfettered instinct. The exhibition is not intended to be a comprehensive survey of American equestrian art, but to explore these archetypes through a variety of media."

The earliest image in the exhibition is a chine colle etching by William Cary, showing horses being herded by Native Americans on the Upper Missouri around 1862. A Sioux Pipe Bag, c. 1905. made of tanned deerskin that is decorated on both sides with a horse motif worked in glass beads, reminds us of the important role the horse had in Native American life.

A photograph by Eadweard Muybridge from his famous series on animal locomotion (1887) helped to prove to contemporaries in the 19th century that when a horse is in full gallop all four hooves do momentarily leave the ground. Artists who took advantage of this observation whose paintings and prints are also in the "Unbridled Beauty" exhibition include Thomas Hart Benton, Grant Wood, Edward Borein, and Douglas Parshall.  Of unusual interest is Benton's 1955 lithograph, Running Horses, shown next to the original egg tempera gouache painting of 1947, both lent by the Beach Museum of Art at Kansas State University. As the wild horses are shown racing a locomotive, the image seems to pit "unbridled" nature against advancing civilization.

In the Wildling Art Museum exhibition, there are intimate drawings, including those by George Ford Morris, one of America';s best equestrian artists, and Channing Peake who lived and painted in the Santa Ynez Valley, while the horses of well-known contemporary artists, Joe Andoe and Michael Eastman, are seen in large limited edition prints.

A bronze sculpture by Alice de Creeft, lusterware plates by Ojai artist, Beatrice Wood. and a carousel horse carved for the Dentzell Company are some of the three-dimensional works in "Unbridled Beauty."

Sponsors for the exhibition and the illustrated brochure that accompanies it are the Ann Jackson Family Foundation, Alamo Pintado Equine Clinic, Jedlicka's Saddlery, and Heloise B. Power.

The public is invited to the opening reception 4-6 p.m. on June 21. A featured event of the afternoon will be an equestrian performance by Ramon Becerra on the property immediately behind the Museum. Many related educational programs have been planned for the summer to augment the exhibition, including a "Drawing Horses in Motion" class with Karen Foster-Wells of Atascadero, a tour to the Alamo Pintado  Equine Clinic, a visit to the "Wild Mustang Sanctuary and Conservancy" near Jalama Beach, and a tour of "horse art" in the Santa Ynez Valley. In addition, the curator, Ms. Reichman, will speak informally about the exhibition twice, at 2 p.m., July 12 and August 9.


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