Competition is tough in the art world. An artist with representation at a Santa Fe gallery and a solo exhibition is to be respected. Attaining that by the tender age of 17 is impressive. But if that painter also turns out to be a horse, well, it’s interesting, miraculous, and amazing all rolled into one. And that’s part of Jake’s charm.
Even without painting, Jake would be exceptional. He is a beautiful buckskin quarter horse owned by John and Colleen Novotny, East Mountain residents and founders of Walkin’ N Circles Horse Ranch, the horse rescue organization in Edgewood, New Mexico.
The couple rescued Jake after his mother died suddenly when he was only three months old. “At first, he was so young, we treated him like a puppy,” explains John. The colt learned to follow him and “assist” with farm chores, picking up hammers and other tools. That’s what led to John’s discovery that Jake wanted to paint.
As an employee of the Albuquerque Art Museum and a painter himself, John sees a lot of contemporary art. One day, feeling unimpressed by a Matisse he was studying, he thought, “My horse could paint that.” As a challenge to that thought – and also because Jake had begun picking up brushes and heaving them in John’s direction – he decided to give Jake a chance.
After experimenting with several set ups, John discovered that a long-handled brush velcroed to Jake’s halter is the preferred working method. The bristle portion of the brush hangs just below Jake’s mouth, allowing him to guide it with his mouth and nose.
John holds the palette as Jake loads the brush with acrylic paint and then the canvas as the horse begins to paint. As Jake works, John asks, “Are you done with that color?” Jake will shake his head “yes” or “no” in response.
Jake also lets John know when he is finished with a composition. When it comes to painting, the master definitely serves the horse.
Some who have seen Jake’s paintings do in fact compare them to the Matisse that started the whole thing. Others say they have an Abstract Expressionist quality. Of course, everyone has an opinion. But no one is making them public.
Jake’s efforts were thought substantive enough, however, to prompt Walkin’ N Circles board member and Santa Fe gallery owner Tom Moxley to offer representation and host a one-horse show. Today, Jake’s work can be found at Moxley’s gallery and he can also be commissioned to create personalized paintings. All proceeds and a portion of the work sold by Moxley go to support Walkin’ N Circles Horse Ranch. For more information and to view some of Jake’s work, visit www.wncr.org.
Walking' N Circles Ranch
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