The horse has always found its place in classical works of sculpture, depictions of epic battles, and traditional pastoral or western motifs. Yet you will find no rider, no battle, and no sweeping landscapes of fields, hills or fence posts in this Friday’s opening of The Art Horse: Series 1 by artist Julie Ferris.
Set against a bright white background, the horse takes center stage without distraction. On display at the Grand Bohemian Gallery throughout September, Ferris’ work brings a refreshing look at the horse as a contemporary art subject.
Placing the horse in what Ferris calls a “pristine, purist environment,” the viewer has space to reference their own experience with the animal. The horse conjures up in each of us a personal memory, fear, curiosity, or wonderment.
Ferris is an avid equestrian. A rider since a young age, Ferris has found in horses a constant source of inspiration for her work as well as her life.
Her work embodies this lifelong experience, accomplishing realistic results and highlighting the complexity in the horse’s coat, body, and features. Equally impressive is Ferris’ great attention to the mannerisms so characteristic of this animal. This is evident in the slight turn of the ears in “Listener” and the lean of the neck in “Quiet Strength”, which will make you wonder if the horse might simply walk off the canvas. These small details demonstrate the unique personality of the animal.
Ferris creates a range of interest within a single subject through her exploration of scale, composition, and color. “I enjoy the challenge of playing with color[s] you wouldn’t think would go together. You keep trying and trying until it works,” she says.
“Foundations” represents that exploration well with imposing, purple-toned hooves that consume an entire canvas. In “Mi Scusi”, the perspective and touch of humor add a lightness that demonstrates the range in which Ferris can work.
The reflection in the full figure pieces is an intentional element that reinforces many of the ideas Ferris is expressing. It’s another way, she says, of allowing viewers to see the horse “for what it is.” The reflection grounds the subject and leaves the viewer with the mystery of what is creating it. Is it water, a mirror, or another surface?
“Reflection is something important I like to do in my daily life,” Ferris adds. “It’s a visual element while also calling the viewer [to reflect] as a personal reminder.”
Horses have figured into the history of art since they were first painted on cave walls and appeared as roughly-formed clay icons. They have evolved through art as well as human culture, taking endless forms. Ferris’ Art Horse is a testament to this animal’s continual place in our own history and its persistent place within contemporary art.
Meet Julie Ferris at the opening of The Art Horse: Series 1 on Friday, September 2nd from 5:30-9:30pm at the Grand Bohemian Gallery at the Mansion on Forsyth Park. Click here to see more of her artwork.