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Horse Sense

Ellen G. Horovitz

During the fall of 2000, a call for artists to submit designs for life sized fiberglass horses circulated in Rochester, NY. The submission for designs coincided with the 31st annual AATA (American Art Therapy Association) conference and as result, I did not put forward my own design.

Nevertheless, as fate would have it, the Public Relations Department at Nazareth College canvassed the Art Department faculty for design submissions. My first step was a crash course in PhotoShop? skills that I had not yet mastered so that I could come up with designs that were graphically clean. The learning curve needed was completed in less than a week. I presented three designs and "Ex Libris" was chosen.

My task was to create a design that represented the image of Nazareth College. As sponsor Nazareth paid both sponsorship and artists fees. Most artists involved in the project would agree, that considering the amount of time involved and the fact that the fee was to cover cost of materials, the project was more a labor of love than a profit making venture. I had two months and 4 days to complete this labor. Alas, my full time job compounded the situation. I worked day and night and often experienced joyful moments and then, just as quickly was reduced to fits of despair. Fortunately, I had two other friends involved in this same madness and so we often consoled each other in between noxious fumes and sheer exhaustion.

"Horse Sense" was borne from the Latin concept of "ex libris". The translation from the Latin means "from out of books comes knowledge". This horse, which was to reflect all that Nazareth College represented, had to mirror the myriad ways in which the institution fashioned itself and in turn, mentored others. This was one of the most difficult pieces I had ever done for a variety of reasons: a) I had never worked in fiberglass before and so this work pushed the envelope for me and b) While I had some free reign, I had to satisfy my client, who commissioned the work, as well as myself. This was no easy task when the ultimate goal was to satisfy the client. For the first time, I had a real understanding of the advertising world and how one can be influenced by outside concerns.

The design itself continuously changed, as did I, throughout the process of its creation. The idea of creating an abacus in place of a saddle led to thoughts about math being a universal language, learned by all cultures. As a result, I added the sign language hands which literally spelled out U-N-I-V-E-R-S-A-L on one side and L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E on the other side of the abacus. This duality seemed logical since sign language is also a universal language and Rochester, NY (where I reside) has one of the world's largest deaf populations. I have specialized in working with the deaf for years and felt a desire to represent this on my horse, and in fact eventually added a hearing aid to the father horse's left ear. The abacus saddle displays a fractal on one side as well as a mathematical puzzle that gave birth to the saying "out of the box" on the other side.I have always operated outside of the box, both as an artist and an art therapist so this had a double meaning for me.

Art fuels the spirit and as a result, midway through the process, I had an epiphany. I decided to alter the design and add a baby horse, attaching it with fiberglass to the father horse: the only thing that the son and father were to have in common was what they both would sport in their aortas: wild horses to represent freedom of education. Fortunately, PR loved this idea and embraced the significance as it related to the mission of the college.

Other items included a saxophone to represent music and the tail, plastered with "Steeplechase", a musical score by the legendary Charlie Parker.

On a hindquarter, a small copy of David's famous painting of Napoleon is painted. Napoleon is holding a Napoleon pastry. This is an obvious stand in for History, French, as well as Administration and is another symbol with multiple meanings.

Drama was represented by a mask, which adorns the father horse. In the center of the mask, a projector lens protrudes out with an upside down horse painted on the lens. The mask, covered by shards of mirrored glass, was created to reflect all that we project of ourselves onto others. The projector lens with the upside down horse (an obvious stand-in for the retina) further reiterated the concept that we only project what we actually perceive onto others. In terms of the process behind my field of Art Therapy, could this be any more fitting?

The decision to add the blood pressure cuff represented the allied professions at Nazareth College: but specifically Nursing and Physical Therapy. Last, but not least, a paintbrush, extended from the mouth area, suggests the art that we make and hopefully speak to each other. This comes from the marriage of Art Therapy and Speech Therapy in Nazareth College's Speech Therapy/ Aphasia Clinic, a venture which has created a large interdisciplinary alliance amongst several graduate programs including, Art Therapy, Music Therapy, Physical Therapy, Speech Therapy/ Communication Disorders, Social Work, Pre-Med, Psychology, and Nursing.

I was honored to be a part of this public endeavor and feel fortunate to have been selected as an artist in this great community project. In September, the horse will be auctioned off and the money will go to one of four charities in Rochester, New York. The horse, like all my previous artwork, sparked my creative spirit in many arenas, including my writing. While creating this work, I was compelled to begin both a fiction book (which is currently about one third finished) while simultaneously starting my third book in the field of Art Therapy. I will be forever grateful to the process and as my greatest teacher, Edith Kramer, once wrote to me in her personal communications, "Ever Art". May I always be driven toward this end.

Ellen G. Horovitz, Ph.D., ATR-BC

The above is a description for a forthcoming book: Horovitz, E.G., The Art of Art Therapists, edited by Bruce L. Moon, Charles C Thomas, LTD., publisher. This document was edited by the Webmaster for use on this site.