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Recent Work: Equine Studies

I have been engaged in a project titled, Equine Studies for the past few years. To date, I have exhibited three different series of this work titled, Stable Community [2004], Herbivores [2006], and Still Seeking Athena [2008]. While I have privately thought of this work as transitional and possibly indulgent, I have not been able to dismiss the deep commitment that I feel for this topic, and the central place it has taken in my creative practice. I am currently focusing on the larger project, Equine Studies, by exploring the relationship of this topic to history, to gender, and to feeling. Historically, horses have been symbiotically related to human existence and have contributed largely to the survival and dominance of humans through the equine contribution to travel, agricultural, and warfare. I experience horses as sensual, powerful, and, like humans, they instinctively herd; they need to gather with their own species. Horses have demonstrated the ability to adapt and live and thrive with their human keepers. I am interested in the power that animals have to influence human behavior and the relationship of this influence to human ethical principles. I would like to more fully explore the power and affect of animals in photographic representations; to produce a non-sentimentalized form of representation that, nonetheless, may encourage serious reflection on the relationship between humans, animals, and nature. I am interested in the tension that results when animals force humans to face their own contradictions and limitations.

Still Seeking Athena

2008

When I went to the British Museum and saw the Elgin Marbles for the first time I was very surprised by the scale of these marbles and, especially, the subject matter—with all that is written about these Marbles, I never realized that the Marbles were primarily images of horses. I paired images of these marbles with my own images of amateur and professional riders in the work Still Seeking Athena. I became very excited about the relationship of horses to antiquity and the Goddess Athena, but also the relationship of horses to the history of art practice. While my own activity of photographing horses has been driven by personal experience—a daughter who rides and the largely female interest in this sport—I was gratified to consider the larger context of the equine topic, that which is recognized as “serious” art. As well, the relationship of the galloping riders represented in the Elgin Marbles to the Goddess Athena particularly resonated with my contemporary female-centered equine experience. In both the contemporary images, and the ancient Marbles, I experience the beauty, power, and the generosity of spirit that is so compelling to the human who pursues an equine relationship.

Herbivores

2006

This work began as a series of horse portraits that evolved into close ups of horses engaged in the activity that occupies the majority of their waking hours if given the choice. As plants are a life form that is not parasitic—they does not rely on other life forms to live but rely on the sun—the herbivore engages in what might be considered a relatively benign method of self-preservation by eating that which grows free and in abundance. This enhances the status of the horse as gentle and non-threatening. In this work I placed, as an overlay to the image, a pattern of movement representative of fundamental movements in dressage—a training method and competitive equine discipline. Under these images, I have included a text that represents the actions of the rider as the horse and rider progress through the sequence of movements. For me, this series contrasts a fundamental animal activity—eating—with the complexity of the ritual forms of physical communication between human and animal. It is the sophistication of this communication, and the focus and cooperation between horse and rider (such different species) that holds my attention.

Stable Community

2004

The grid formed by this series of ponies and riders is one that represents “balance,” a utopian goal. The balance is, of course, only formally represented, but is a goal to be attained by the horse-rider team. The word “stable” also reinforces this desire for balance and suggests that “balance” may be found in the horse barn, a feeling that holds true for many young female horse lovers. On another level, the riders use bits, boots, and spurs, or tools, in their efforts to achieve this balance, and these tools can have a greater or lesser degree of benign influence. Here, the power and strength of the horse is paired with the relative powerlessness of the young girl; she is using tools to increase ability and test her success in controlling what is beyond her strength. This seems like a sensible activity.