Like most young children, I asked for a horse every birthday, Christmas, and special occasion in between. And. . .like most young children, my wish remained unfulfilled. Unless….that is….you count the number of Breyer horse figurines I received as gifts or even more exciting, the number of horses whose manes I braided with daisies on my walks home from the school bus stop in rural Okeechobee. I can only imagine the looks of surprise from my parents when I tried to ride my tiny plastic horse, Palomino Mare–even as a two year old, these Sears Wishbook beauties were not meant for galloping. Or even more surprising would be my unsuspecting neighbors coming home from work to feed their horses only to find the manes beautifully braided and filled with wildflowers. Finally, at the age of 13, my brave dad got me my first horse. Even though Darlin’ was one of the meanest little ponies to trot on the earth, I loved her dearly. Later I got Taco, who ended up being the kindest, most gentle gelding one could ever hope to have even though he definitely had that thoroughbred mixed with quarterhorse blood running through his veins. We developed a love, a trust and no doubt taught each other more than I recount even today.
So it is with this love of horses that I come to the canvas. With every stroke, every paint blend, every eye sparkle it almost feels like I can touch a live horse. I know the curve of a shoulder, the solid weight of a leg in my hands as I pick a hoof, and the warm steam of breath on my neck. When I am “running with the horses,” time passes quickly. When I am with the horses, it is not only they who run freely, but also my thoughts and emotions as well. I recall memories that bring smiles, tears, and all out laughter. . .but more than anything, I confirm my love for these beautiful animals and am grateful for their presence in my life and the gifts they once and continue to give to me. “Gemini” is a special painting. . .those two boys. . .filled with love, hope, and wisdom. . .their eyes tell the whole story, and I am blessed. —Nicki
As I was working on my latest interpretations of Frida Kahlo, I finally admitted to myself that none of my “Fridas” really look like her. I hope to capture some sass in her expressions, but as far as total likeness? Not so much. And I realized that I’m okay with that because I believe there’s a little Frida in all of us.
Frida Kahlo, a Mexican painter who lived from 1907-1954, is one of the most creative and self-aware artists I know. Having had polio as a young girl and a bus accident several years later, Frida lived most of her life in physical pain. I have asked myself if I would have been brave enough to creatively express my pain through painting while in a full body cast using a special easel my parents provided. Would I have avoided succumbing to the chronic physical pain, and instead captured the pain on canvas? As I matured, would I have been brave enough to express pride in my indigenous home during a time of racial and gender oppression? Would I be willing to paint my reality of pain as subject rather than fantasy or landscapes? Critics have noted that out of her 143 paintings, 55 are self-portraits that do just that–they tell the truth. Frida, no doubt, followed Shakespeare’s advice “to thy ownself be true.” Whether it was political or religious bias, Frida was the brave woman that I am becoming. In times like these COVID 19 days, when others are frantically buying items for comfort, I want to be able to be brave and say, “pain is a part of life, but not the end of life.” I want to provide creative love to others, support their ambitions, help assuage their fears, and most of all–through it all–be true to myself. So while my whimsical style of painting does not include self portraits, my art does include horses, hedgehogs, chickens, and Frida. This beautiful gathering of acrylic, watercolor, and colored pencils are expressions of love and bravery from my studio to your home. So, yes, I do hope that a little Frida resides in each of us–regardless of the color of our skin, the age of our wrinkles, or the style of our dress–we will endeavor to be true to ourselves, be creative, but most of all, be love. Nicki