Equine Art Alive and Kicking On
by Nikki Alvin-Smith
While many enjoy The Art of Horsemanship there is the 'other' art of horses that draws just as much passion and enjoyment and reaches deep into our souls.
The variety of artists and artisans that capture the noble horse offer a limitless scope of work with which to decorate our homes and broadcast our empathy with horses and equestrian lifestyle.
For this writer many hours have been spent at the Tate and National galleries in London, musing over the great works of Stubbs and his compatriots, turning the glossy pages of Spur magazine and sharing the delights of the Mellon equine art collections, and also turning my own hand to painting horses with oil on canvas. Like many horse lovers my home is adorned with everything equine. Bronzed horses, Beswick china horses, plates with horse breed paintings, horse brasses, Chang horses. Travels abroad are always another shopping opportunity for me and watercolors of the iconic Spanish Reitschule, horse printed silk scarves from Verden and charcoal prints of Shire horses from England all share space in the ever growing collection. But there are lots of resources to quell my desire to collect horse art much closer to home.
The Catskill region of New York has long been a haven for writers and artists, the beauty of the mountain light and the wide open spaces and tranquility are the perfect spot to revel in the creative process. So it is no surprise to find an abundance of equine art available in the region and environs. Some artisans, such as Elaine Warfield of Exceptional Silks are hidden on mountain roads. Elaine wields her magical artistic talents on everything from silk scarves to shoes. Her freestyle painting utilizes the very best of premium dyes from France and the vibrant colors bring equines to life floating across the silk in abstract designs. The technique would fascinate you to view, as the dyes hit the silk the colors are maximized or as Elaine puts it, " The fusion of the ink with the silk brings out colors as if they are on steroids."
Elaine carefully paints the design stretching the silk out on a PVC pipe frame. The silk is then rolled in blank newspaper and put in a homemade steamer to set the dye. A gentle hand wash and it's done. The silk used is mainly Crepe de Shine and charmeuse, high quality silks that fuses perfectly with the dyes. The weights of the silk varies from Habotai at a very light 5mm to 19mm. The heavier the silk the nicer the product will drape. The designs are not just equine, but include beautiful flowers and abstract works.
Like many artisans that use the horse as inspiration, Elaine has a background in horses and began her career at SUNY Cobleskill attaining her degree in Animal Husbandry. She has managed horse farms and ridden in multi-disciplines. Elaine is also a published author in both Young Adult and Romance genres. Her Western Romance series features just what you would expect, hot cowboys and fast action. You can find her written works under the pseudonym Grace Brannigan.
There are many local art associations that support local equine artists and one of them, the Windham Arts Alliance holds an Annual Art Festival where you will find Elaine's beautiful silk creations available for purchase or you can visit her website at ExceptionalSilks.com where there is a link to her Red Bubble & Etsy store or stop in at Tannersville Antique and Artisan Center. On July 4th 2015 Elaine's Exceptional Silks will also be available at the Christmanns in Ashland, NY, art and artisans exhibition.
Like Exceptional Silks, there are many new art ventures out there. A sign we hope, that our economy is turning the corner. A stone's throw from the Catskill Mountains is the beautiful Hudson Valley and in the quaint town of Red Hook, just over the Rhinecliffe bridge you can find Juliet Harrison's Equis Art Gallery.
This venue is a tiny gem that you will have to seek out and is well worth the destination visit for the collector of everything equine. The gallery sports an array of sophisticated non-traditional equine art. Much of the work is non representational and your mind will be taken on many journeys during your visit. The gallery features work from the owner as well as a collection of other fine artists.
Juliet Harrison was a horse crazy kid, and while she didn't own her own horse until the age of forty-three, her passion for the horse has been an inspiration throughout her life and her photographic works frame the horse in unusual ways not in the photo realism method. After thirty years managing an independent bookstore and living in New York City,Juliet and her husband found themselves drawn to make a permanent home in Red Hook and Juliet then set about fulfilling her life time dream of opening a gallery. The Red Hook Community Arts space tucked behind a store on Route 9 ( see directions below), was a splendid space to start when she began a year ago. As the one year anniversary clicked over, it was apparent to Juliet that the Equis Art Gallery needed to expand and she has developed a very innovative method to try to fund her dream to have a store front on a main thoroughfare in the town by creating an Indiegogo flexible crowd funding campaign.
While crowdfunding is commonly used to drive funds to non profit corporations, help out families with unexpected medical expenses or create sponsorship dollars for athletes to make trips to National competitions or events, the use of the funding programs to raise money to cover the first six months of a lease for a profit driven gallery is not so common. Juliet explained that her vision for the gallery is not primarily profit driven so for investors that seek rewards in dollars and cents her business is not attractive. But for investors like Juliet, who want to provide a showcase for artists works and to support the artists with low commissions in a non traditional gallery way - the Equis Art Gallery is a good choice. As an artist herself Juliet has experienced galleries from both sides of the doorway.
" Gallery owners often act as though you should kiss their feet. Without us, the artists, they would have no business at all. But they don't always treat artists with the respect that they deserve, and I choose to remedy that," Juliet stated.
Crowdfunding is a complicated affair and fees must be paid from the proceeds to the site so not all funds go to the cause, unless you reach the goal that is. The goal for Equis Art Gallery is to reach $24,000, and while at the outset funds have been mainly donated by friends and family, Juliet hopes that the algorithm gods will smile on her project and that the campaign will enjoy some viral exposure. Should her goal not be reached then the funds received in this flexible program will remain in her hands and she will use them to develop an advertising program for her present space. All the details of how the funds will be spent are explicitly laid out on the site.
" I would really like to find a space that has lots of foot traffic. The gallery will feature primarily equine art, but in order to reach a broader audience there will be dog/cat and wildlife art, vintage collectible books, furniture and antiques for sale too," explained Juliet. The present Equis Art Gallery space is just two hundred square feet with fluorescent lights and no window.
" I have done what I can to create a space where I am, that does the works justice," said Juliet, " I am seeking a five hundred to eight hundred square foot space where I can showcase lots of work. At the moment I have to run back and forth from the gallery to my house to pick up more artwork if a customer has interest in one specific artist, as the present space is so tiny I cannot showcase everything that is available at one time."
When asked where Juliet resources artist works for her gallery she explained that to begin with she highlighted work from her artist friends whose work she has collected herself and much admires. " I never take any piece in that I would not love to own myself," Juliet said. As time has gone along and word of the gallery has spread through social media she receives calls from art agents far afield including Boston and other cities, who seek her space for their clientele.
So if you are in a philanthropic mood and would like to pay it forward and support this local effort please visit https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-equis-art-gallery-relocation-campaign/x/9811675 . No donation is too small or too large and there are tier support suggestions and gifts and recognition for those that participate. The crowdfunding campaign ends March 20th and the earlier you make a contribution, the more likely it is that the campaign will receive a higher profile coverage as the algorithms are mysteriously designed but are driven by dollars pledged and the number of donors. If you miss the deadline you can always contact Juliet directly to make a donation. And if you would like to visit and experience the distinctive Juliet Harrison marriage of horse and art please check out the website www.equisart.com. There is something for every budget.
To the Western side of the Catskill region there are also lots of artist creations to be enjoyed. In Oneonta, just a short hop from the region the CANO ( Community Arts Network of Oneonta), regularly hosts exhibitions of all sorts of mediums at the Wilbur Mansion. Visit http://www.canoneonta.org/ to see their hours. The start of March is the Annual Members Exhibit and will feature a myriad of delights including some equine, wildlife and rural lifestyle art. In the interest of transparency I will add that my own Hanoverian Colt oil on canvas work will be there among other members work and available for sale!
Another great event to visit is the 2015 Equus Film Festival in New York City which includes an expanded fine art exhibit amongst a myriad of creative efforts centered on the horse. This is the world's only film festival dedicated to the horse and slated to return this November to New York City. The Equus Film Festival highlights and awards the diverse and creative efforts of those in independent filmmaking, music, theatre, art and advertising who pay artistic homage to the horse. The screened content further helps show the rich history and diverse tapestry of the horse in human history, culture, media and the arts.
The Equus Film Festival galloped into New York City for the first time last November into Harlem's MIST Theatre, hosting 119 films and videos and presenting its equivalent of equine 'Oscars' in 14 categories including best Equestrian Music Video, Commercial, Documentary, Art Film, International Film, Director, Native American Film, People's Choice and Best of Festival.
“By bringing the Equus Film Festival to New York City, we have further brought to light the exceptional dedication and fresh talent found in both independent film and the equestrian community,” says Lisa Dierson, Festival Creator.
A contributing equestrian lifestyle, arts and fashion editor for publications including Elite Equestrian (official magazine of the Ocala Horse Park) and columnist behind His & Hers: Stylish Conversations, LA Pomeroy will help coordinate the debut of the 2015 Festival's equestrian fine art show. “Having organized prior successful exhibitions of horse artists, and their selection for covers of national championship show programs, I can bring a deep pool of talent to the table,” says Pomeroy, whose own background includes Harvard Graduate School of Arts & Sciences studies in art and visual design, and film script analysis.
So trot around New York both Upstate and Downstate and enjoy horses both in the saddle and in the galleries and on screen and support local community organizations that broaden our minds.