When I was in the 2nd grade my father came back from a business trip with 2 Breyer horses for my sister and me. They were both clydesdales, 12” long, 9” high and made of cast resin. They had a distinct odor that in later years I would come to love. They were identical except for a slight difference in brown tone. To this day I still remember exactly where I was when my dad gave them to us. My clydesdale was the first of what would become a healthy collection of Breyers.
Soon after, I began drawing the horses in my collection. In the 4th grade I had been working on a new thoroughbred Breyer, Touch of Class, when I finally nailed it. I was so proud. I even made the ears long enough, which historically was a problem area for me. I got a lot of critiques that my horses looked like dogs, moms are always critics. But Touch of Class was PERFECT. I soon discovered there was a problem with my medium. Touch of Class was done in my medium of choice, No.2 pencil on copy paper. She was starting to smudge and fade. My solution was ink, Bic pen to be exact. I was not even remotely focused on an archival practice at this point in my artistic career. After slowly and deliberately inking over my original marks I took a deep breath and tried to relax. My work was safe, Touch of Class was permanent. But I was still anxious.
I started to worry I would misplace the original drawing. It could happen, I was only ten after all and I had a pretty bad track record of losing one shoe on a fairly regular basis. I could easily misplace the original Touch of Class, I had to make prints. In my first artistic foray into multiples I made photo copies at my local library, they were 5 cents each. I used Bic pen to ink over some of the more faded copies creating my first mono prints. I even copied the inked in photo copies in case I lost the original copies. Suffice it to say things started to go down hill after that. I was practically swimming in duplicates of varying degrees of originality and I was out of nickels. It was getting hard to tell which were original copies and which were second generation re-inked copies. Even the original was getting hard to identify. Art, my release, my catharsis had become a source of anxiety and the stress was starting to cut into my playtime. So I took a deep breath, relaxed and decided If I could do it once, I could do it again. Even if I lost the original drawing and the copies and the copies of the copies, I still had the ability to make more. From then on my art was no longer precious.
I would be diagnosed with Clinical Depression in my mid-twenties. If you are surprised to hear that anxiety was a big part of my depression you haven’t been paying attention. The day in day out weighty sense of loss was another feature of my personal struggle. With depression the sense of loss is ambiguous and anonymous. It is not identifiable but it is palpable. And it is relentlessly monotonous. Winston Churchill struggled with depression throughout his life, he referred to it as his “black dog.”
In 2017 I lost my father to pancreatic cancer. That particular feeling of loss, though identifiable is no less confusing. It too is relentlessly monotonous and a daily struggle. The Black Horse installation is not about these relationships but it comes from them. My Black Horses exist where childish idealism and adult reality intersect.