Hooked on Horses
Artists see equine subjects as symbols of West, freedom, spirit
“Arco Horses” shows Theodore Waddell’s abstract expressionist vision of an Idaho landscape.
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The horse and the American West are intrinsically linked. It is impossible to separate the history or the mythic power of one from the other.
While horses are important figures in human history the world over, the symbolism of the western American horse is unique. Nowhere is this more evident than in Western art.
The great chronicler of the late 18th Century American West, Frederic Remington, created iconic images of horses and riders that still resonate today. His sculpture, “The Bronco Buster,” could be said to be a precursor to the Wyoming State license plate image of a rider on his bucking bronco.
“I knew the wild riders and the vacant land were about to vanish forever,” Remington once said of the territory he’d been sent to write about and illustrate for east coast magazines. “I began to record some facts around me, and the more I looked the more the panorama unfolded.”
Though Remington’s Old West may have vanished, passion for equine art did not. Jackson Hole corrals much of the finest contemporary western and equine art in the nation. Some modern-day equine artists follow in Remington’s footsteps, working within representational bounds. Others, like Diehl Gallery’s Ashley Collins or Montana sculptor Deborah Butterfield, interpret the horse in bold new ways, using unexpected media.
Images West spoke with four leading equine artists who exhibit locally to learn what fuels their abiding interest in the horse as subject. The diversity of their media, style, and approach exemplify how the dynamic icon of the horse continues to ride across the evolving plains of human imagination.
September Vhay’s first vivid memory of horses dates back to when she was 5 years old. She and her parents were sitting in a natural hot springs near their Idaho home when a herd of wild horses suddenly appeared, galloping along a ridge above them.