In my Horses in the Elements Series, I looked for waves that I could see horses in. Sometimes this happened in the unlikeliest places. I saw the photo for “Daybreak” on a Sierra Club card pinned to the office wall of our family friend who was a windsurfer. When I told him I saw horses in the waves, he blithely said, “Oh yeah, surfers call that type of wave “mares heads”. He didn’t realize how profound his comment was to me, for I had painted several other paintings from the shapes of horses I saw in waves, and his comment was confirmation that this phenomenon was apparently something other people also unconsciously perceived.
“Daybreak” 1993 20 x 29 Thirteen horses race the dawn
“Daybreak” Thirteen horses race the dawn
“Driven by the offshore wind they form The gift of Poseidon, god of the sea Mares of water, salt, and foam, Dancing at dawn’s first light to me.” ~ Kim McElroy
The dramatic upsurge of waves in “The Battle” clearly gave me the image of two stallions fighting. Yet I also found seven other horses. This painting is one of the most challenging compositions to find the horses in because the horse heads are smaller in perspective in different waves throughout the painting; like a herd scattering away from the two stallions clashing.
“The Battle” 1995 22 x 28 “Two rearing stallions and a herd of seven
“The Battle” Two rearing stallions and a herd of seven
The stallions clashed like two waves surging One lunging, one receding As the herd rolled silently by.” ~ Kim McElroy
Sometimes I found more than I expected, as was the case with “Rainbow Vision”. I found horses in the rainbows, but then the awkward rounded shapes of the upper wave crest confounded me until I realized they were buffalo. Then the sharp crest below formed into an eagle. I then began looking for what I sensed was there but couldn’t see. The face of a Native American… I looked and looked for a full on face but couldn’t see it, and then it occurred to me – perhaps it was a profile like an Indian Head coin… and there he was, waiting to be seen.
“Rainbow Vision” 1996 19 x 25
Six rainbow horses in the mist, three buffalo in the wave, a flying eagle at the crest, watched over by a Native American spirit
“Rainbow Vision” Six rainbow horses in the mist, three buffalo in the wave, a flying eagle at the crest, and watched over by a Native American spirit
“Grandfather… Give the eagle flight with your sacred breath Let the buffalo charge like a roaring wave Watch the horses dance in the rainbow mist May the spirits of your vision live in harmony”
~ Kim McElroy
A Universal Concept
As I began reading more about the sea in myth and philosophy I realized that I as not alone in my inspiration to combine horses and waves. I discovered countless references to horses from sailor’s terms like “The raging mane” or “white horses” as types of waves. Then I discovered that in Greek myth, it was the sea god Poseidon who created the first horse. It was so inspiring to know that I had instinctively stumbled upon a very ancient concept.
When I went sailing with friends I sat up near the bow sprit. Feeling the plunging motion of the boat in the waves, I thought it was no wonder that sailors compared horses to the sea. Sailing felt like riding a horse ~ the powerful waves beneath me mimicking the rocking motion of a canter.
Over the years I have found inspiration from other artists and writers and their visions of horses and the sea. In 1922, the year my mother was born, Carl Sandburg wrote The Rootabaga Stories. In “The White Horse Girl and the Blue Wind Boy” , a girl who loves horses and a boy who listens to the wind leave their home to find out where horses and the wind come from. Their travels lead them to the sea, where they sit on a cliff to watch the horses appear in the rolling waves.
These and other artistic visions remind me that all things are connected, and that ideas are universal. Horses and the sea will always call to me. Through my art, these inspirations find their ways into the hearts and imaginations of my viewers.
**In the next installments I will share how these series of horses in waves evolved into other inspirations.