My/Your/His/Her Little Pony?

Worel put it best when she mentioned giving the viewer a ‘simulacrum of memory’ with Rocking Horse Winner (RHW). She provides the observer with a fondness for something they may have never even experienced before. The piece itself is grand. A real beauty to behold from a distance.

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Although I haven’t seen Kathrine Worel’s piece, Rocking Horse Winner (2005) in some time, it’s unforgettable. In Fall 2008, I had the good fortune of spending one of the most lovely and enchanting evenings with the artist.

Rocking Horse Winner (taxidermy horse, tack, wood and rug 6ft high, 14ft long and 3ft wide), 2005

Worel’s assertion that the horse serves as a ‘simulacrum of memory’ is a perfect description of my experience with the work.  She provides the observer with a fondness for something they may have never experienced.  The piece itself is grand and majestic.  As you get closer, there is a growing sense of tension, an unnerving and unfolding of the past and all its imperfection.  This is captured in her deliberate attempt to keep the mottled spots of hair and apparent aged look of an already decrepid horse.  The saddle was once used by Worel when she was young. It is placed neatly on the horse as if it were waiting for a lucky rider.

Of course, upon meeting any talented artist, it’s inevitable to ask what piqued their interest in creating a particular art work. She mentioned the short story, Rocking Horse Winner by D.H. Lawrence and I immediately went home, pulled up the story and read it. I read it twice. From my recollection, it sparked an interest in what people hold dear and how one can believe that their actions can determine an outcome. All this from a taxidermied horse? Yes, folks. Although an MFA piece, it gives me goosebumps and in the best way. One may see it as a bit abject yet a paradox of statements ensues with the viewer (like/don’t like, ugly/beautiful, strange/familiar, etc.). A mere picture won’t do it justice, this is certain. I would love to write something more extensively about Rocking Horse Winner since it is both intriguing and captures the essence of juvenile fascination with the imagination in an adult world.

Original posting: 24 Aug 2010 / Revised: 11 March 2011

Author: Dorothy R. Santos

Dorothy R. Santos (b. 1978) is a Filipina-American writer, editor, curator, and educator whose research interests include new media and digital art, activism, artificial intelligence, and biotechnology. Born and raised in San Francisco, California, she holds Bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and Psychology from the University of San Francisco, and received her Master’s degree in Visual and Critical Studies at the California College of the Arts. She serves as one of the editors-in-chief for Hyphen magazine. Her work appears in art21, Art Practical, Daily Serving, Rhizome, Hyperallergic, and SF MOMA's Open Space. She has lectured at the De Young museum, Stanford University, School of Visual Arts, and more. Her essay “Materiality to Machines: Manufacturing the Organic and Hypotheses for Future Imaginings,” was published in The Routledge Companion to Biology in Art and Architecture (2016). She is currently a Yerba Buena Center for the Arts fellow researching the concept of citizenship. She also serves as executive staff for the Bay Area Society for Art & Activism and board member for the SOMArts Cultural Center.

1 thought on “My/Your/His/Her Little Pony?”

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