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Arts: Brookgreen celebrates the horse, of course

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

From the aluminum “Fighting Stallions” at the entrance to the granite “Pegasus” near the riverfront, the horse occupies a special place in the Brookgreen Gardens sculpture collection.

So it made sense to mount an exhibit on the horse in art, said Robin Salmon, vice president of art and curator of sculpture. It opens Saturday in the Rainey Sculpture Pavilion, pulling together 68 works in two and three dimensions by 27 sculptors and artists. Some provide both sculpture and paintings.

“It’s just so ingrained into the fabric of Brookgreen Gardens,” Salmon said. There’s no count of the number of horses in the collection. “In every part of the grounds, you can see a horse.”

Anna Hyatt Huntington, who founded Brookgreen with her husband Archer, often featured horses in her work, including the “Fighting Stallions” that are Brookgreen’s trademark. “It was her favorite subject,” Salmon said.

Huntington, born in 1876, came of age when the horse was emerging as a common theme in American art. The works in the exhibit range from the late 19th century with Frederic Remington’s “The Bronco Buster,” first cast in 1895, to contemporary works, including some from two Brookgreen trustees, Dan Ostermiller and Sandy Scott.

Salmon started work on the exhibit a year ago. Only 22 pieces are from the Brookgreen collection. A grant from the Wallace Foundation, a South Carolina family foundation, funded the exhibit, including the transportation of works on loan. They are grouped in four broad themes: work, play, racing and show horses, and spiritual, which includes monumental works such as “Joan of Arc,” a work that earned Huntington a prize from the French in a competition for the 500th anniversary of the birth of the Maid of Orleans.

“Anna Hyatt Huntington is well-represented, although she doesn’t dominate,” Salmon said.

One source for contemporary works was the Cowboy Artists of America, a select group dedicated to perpetuating Western culture in fine art. T.D. Kelsey, one of the sculptors represented, is also a member of the National Sculpture Society. His studio is on his working ranch in Texas. One of his works, “Power Lunch,” features two horses with feedbags playing.

He’s not alone among the rancher-artists. Cynthia Rigden has two paintings and two sculptures in the exhibit. “She’s an active rancher,” Salmon said, and also represented in Brookgreen’s permanent collection with a sculpture of a Texas longhorn.

Scott is another multi-media contributor. She also donated artwork from her private collection to the exhibit. A series of six etchings represent working rodeo horses. One of her four sculptures in the exhibit, “Equus Fragment Found,” was inspired by the horses on St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice.

Aside from the theme it’s the quality of work that stands out. “It’s like a Who’s Who of American artists who interpret the horse as part of their work,” Salmon said.

In fact many are in various Who’s Who directories, such as Marilyn Newmark, whose work “To the Post” represents one of several race horses in the exhibit. She is a founding member of the American Academy of Equine Art.

The exhibit also features works of a former Brookgreen trustee, Charlotte Dunwiddie. Born in France and raised in Germany, she spent many years in South America where she married a U.S. industrialist. She was a championship dressage rider and became a prominent sculptor of horses. She died in 1995, but her life and career were so varied Salmon has her on the list of subjects for a future exhibit.

If you go

What: Equine Spirit: The Horse in American Art

Where: Brookgreen Gardens

When: Jan. 25 though April 27

How much: Free with regular admission [E-Mail Article To a Friend]


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