The Equine Sculpture of Rachel Wilson

As the Kentucky Derby is approaching in a few weeks, we’re at the point in the year where–at least for a few hours–a dozen horses will awe an entire nation. For all of those viewers who can’t visit a stable themselves, the artist and sculptor Rachel Wilson has created some gorgeous work that captures these  animals’ fluidity and grace.
A native of southwestern Missouri, Ms. Wilson’s sculptures plumb the area between folk art and modern art, between the representational style of Thomas Hart Benton and the abstract works as Alberto Giacometti and Andy Goldsworthy. It’s no surprise, then, that these sculptures are a reflection both of her study of modern art and of her experiences as a farmer. Below, Linda Leicht of the Springfield News-Leader, describes the genesis of the project and the artist’s process:

She decided she would create an “assemblage” out of natural materials on the farm.

“It really started out of necessity,” she said. “We were outside already, and I always seem to find something creative I can do.”

Now, even her little ones have been working on their own sculptures. Cost was a additional incentive.

“We’ve been through some tight times with farming,” said Wilson, a “city girl” from Webb City who now loves the farming life with her husband, Kyle, a third-generation farmer.

Now, it’s a family event. Kyle Wilson drives the pickup truck, and she and the kids “pick up sticks.”

Those sticks are pretty special — they are big, shapely, hard and resistant. “As far as I can tell, it lasts for just about forever,” she said of the wood.

Hedge — or Osage orange trees — were planted in the hedge rows and used for fencing. The Wilsons have dug up hedge fence posts placed years earlier that are still green and untouched by rot or bugs. It’s easy to find the fallen branches, especially after the ice storms of 2007 and 2008.

“I don’t take anything off living trees,” she insists. “I’m kind of a tree-hugger, I guess.”

Ms. Wilson’s art is stunning in the way that it displays an intuitive understanding of the horse, bringing to life its posture, its gait–even its musculature–all through the unbendable arc of an osage branch. It’s also a fantastic model for how the arts can actively contribute to the success of a family farm and how, on a broader scale, rural communities can use their local assets to foster artistic and economic sustainability. Rachel Wilson’s site contains many more pictures of her horses, as well as her other sculptures. Also, here’s a video that helps reveal the artist’s work: