A horse is a horse, of course, of course … even when he’s placed smack in the middle of one of Van Gogh’s most famous paintings, or donning the bowler hat made famous in Magritte’s iconic “The Son of Man.” This particular horse is Victoor, the spokeshorse for Harmony HorseWorks in Conifer, and the inspiration for the latest show by artist Barbara Wright, Harmony’s founder.
“A Horse in Art,” which opens Friday, May 28, at the Center for the Arts Evergreen, is an innovative collection of works by Wright. Each painting is a careful re-imagining of the works of master painters throughout art history. The twist is that Vic, and oftentimes his equine counterparts, are woven into each painting.
In “Ancestors,” an homage to the Paleolithic cave painters of Lascaux and Chauvet, Vic is surrounded by ancient handprints and stylized images of other horses. In “Amore, What is this thing called Love?” Vic leans protectively over a sleeping child who is wrapped in the flowing red cloth that appeared in so many of Caravaggio’s works. In “Fly Sheet Boogie Woogie,” Vic trots gracefully in front of a replica of Piet Mondrian’s masterpiece, “Broadway Boogie Woogie.” Vic’s fly sheet, or protective blanket used to keep flies off of horses, is decorated in the same patterns, camouflaging him against the grid of primary colors.
Wright studied studio painting and business at Cal State-Los Angeles. She pursued a career in international business, and continued to paint along the way. When she founded Harmony HorseWorks in 2004, Wright turned to the subject she knew best for inspiration — her horses. Harmony is a nonprofit horse sanctuary that cares for injured and special-needs horses. The sanctuary is run by volunteers, and fund-raising efforts bring in the majority of the money needed to maintain the herd with feed, grain, supplements, veterinary care and farrier care.
“When you run a nonprofit, you are always looking for more creative ways to fund-raise,” Wright says. “I’ve always sold paintings of the horses in our herd. But, Vic and I were talking one day about Victor Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night.’ Vic asked me, ‘Who put those stars there in the sky?’ I explained and Vic said, ‘I want to be an artist, too.’ ”
That was the beginning of Wright’s year-long creation of a show. Wright and Steve Sumner, director of the Center for the Arts Evergreen, met one evening and brainstormed the possibilities for integrating Vic into famous paintings from throughout the world.
“Barbara is not only a talented painter, but her knowledge of art history is astounding as well,” Sumner says. “She really captures the techniques of these artists and makes them her own. It’s a privilege for the art center to host this show. The concept is so unique, and we’ve worked to honor the idea of ‘A Horse in Art.’ ”
The CAE board supported Wright’s idea, and three board members, Heather Baird and Karen Cage of Fuller Sotheby’s International Realty and Dr. Ruth Morehouse of the Marriage & Family Health Center, agreed to sponsor the show.
The show will open with a reception during Last Friday Gallery Walk from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, May 28. Wright will present a Brown Bag Lunch at the CAE at noon Wednesday, June 2. Finally, CAE will host an open house event during Evergreen Rodeo weekend. Wright’s artwork will be on display, and Victoor himself may play host from 1 to 3 p.m.