News of the Weird – Should I be insulted by this horse? by Kate Themel

On the lighter side of the news, a horse named Cholla will be having a solo exhibition of his paintings in Venice next Spring.  Yes, if you are pausing to re-read the first sentence, I did mean to type HORSE.

Cholla has gained notoriety as several of the horse’s paintings have been accepted into juried shows in the US and Europe.   (The latest one: 3rd International Art Prize Arte Laguna, October 18-November 2, Mogliano Veneto, Italy).  “The Big Red Buck” was accepted and included in the show, along with 1,770 other paintings.

As you can imagine, the reactions from the jurors after learning that the “artist” was in fact a horse, ranged from amusement to anger.  I, myself, only wonder what exactly were the faults of the nearly 1400 paintings the jurors rejected?

A mystifying statement was made by Cholla’s owner Renee Chambers.  She says the work’s acceptance into this and other international art shows, proves the horse has artistic talent.

“Yes, it’s a novelty that a horse can paint,” she said. “But it’s not about novelty anymore. It’s about his validation as an artist.”

Um….. what??

According to a CNN article (See link below), “His artwork has been described as having the ‘fire of Pollock’ and the ‘fixed gaze of Resnick.’  I’d really like to have the names of the people who said that.

I decided to take a look at the paintings and see what all the hub bub was about.  I’ll admit: paint has been applied to canvas using a variety of colors.  Other than that, I really don’t see anything mind-blowing.  If I owned Cholla, I’m sure these would be framed and hanging in a place of honor in my house.  Much like the paintings my kids have done over the years.  If you want to take a look and some examples, here’s their official link:

A WORD OF WARNING:  The website looks like Cholla the horse designed it himself.  It’s very hard to navigate and the words and pictures are all over the place.  You have to scroll down pretty far just to see some of the links.

I still think it’s worth a look, just to read some of the work’s titles.  They really made me smile.  And it was a nice break from the stress of the day.  I started coming up with my own names for his work; “Fresh Hay” and “Unbridled Passion” came to mind.

Anyway, this story just proves that I have been surfing the internet too much.  The art world is not going to be brought to its knees or anything.  No one is being hurt and there are a lot of other important things going on in the world.  The value of this story is only to distract you from an otherwise stressful day and revel in the ridiculous.  I think I’m going to file this story in the “The Stuff Crazy People Do” folder and move on with my life.

So, Please, to all the fabric artists out there who have been rejected by art show jurors:  You may be considering sitting your Persian cat Sofie at the sewing machine… You know, just to see if she has any talent. Take a deep breath, call a friend, and get back to work.  Obviously jurors are fallible; even the established ones.  You never really know what is in their heads when they choose artwork.

More on Cholla the wonder horse/artist:

Interested in paying $90 for a print of Cholla’s work?

See the artist in action!  Be amazed!

9 Responses to “News of the Weird – Should I be insulted by this horse? by Kate Themel”

  1. 1 Sandy October 28, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    Kate- I am so glad you beat me to this article- I have been saving sites of ‘animal art’ for several months now- elephants, chimps, a cocatoo… I just haven’t gotten to writing it- but you did a great job and now I can forget the project.

    Loved your conclusion about the jurors. Boy, are their faces red!

  2. 2 glennis October 24, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    “A mystifying statement was made by Cholla’s owner Renee Chambers. She says the work’s acceptance into this and other international art shows, proves the horse has artistic talent.”

    so by Ms. Chambers’ standards, proof of artistic talent
    is determined by acceptance into these types of art shows…..

    wow. many great artists have had their works rejected before (and while!) going on to become highly regarded in the international art world. in fact, i wonder if there ever was a great artist who never had their work rejected……

    perhaps THAT’s the difference.

  3. 3 Eugene October 21, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    Now everyone is talking about the American economy and eclections, nice to read something different. Eugene

  4. 4 Anaka Narayanan October 19, 2008 at 2:22 am

    Even if the owner isn’t involved in the creative process, isn’t this a bit of a marketing gimmick?? I mean, it’s not like the owner is the horse’s art agent, and I find it amusing that there is even a discussion on what is going on in the horse’s brain while he is painting. This is not about whether or not the poor horse is artistic- the horse is just a pawn in someone else’s business idea. But I guess if people pay money for prize dogs at dog shows, and to hear parrots talk, then why not buy a painting done by a horse?

  5. 5 melanie October 18, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    I do wonder if the paints etc were left out if the horse-elephant-dolphin would seek them out and take them up independently or if it’s something the animals do primarily to appease their giddy humans. That is, does the learned behavior answer soemthing inside the animal that the animal wishes to express and now can, or is it simply a trick in exchange for some kind of reward?

    And — apologies, I thought you were being arch by following the reference to Pollock with “Much like the paintings my kids have done over the years” since a lot of folks (including me at one time) dismiss a lot of Pollock’s work as something “any child could do.”

  6. 6 kate October 18, 2008 at 10:39 am

    Melanie, you have a good point. I’ve actually seen the elephant paintings too.
    I’ll concede that there are animals who have been taught or trained to paint. But I am skeptical when the human owner or handler is so involved in the “creative process”. It blurs the line between animals having artistic expression & humans using an animal as a painting tool or a gimmick.
    Even though Cholla the horse was the subject of the article, the point wasn’t to judge the value of animals vs. humans.
    In my defense, I compared the horse’s art to the art of my own children, whom I love dearly.
    I’m just saying that people judge art based on their own perceptions & opinions, and we can’t know what is in the judges’ minds when they reject/accept work to shows. In that sense, it’s best not to take rejections personally. And that we should all just keep working on what kind of art fulfills us personally.

  7. 7 melanie October 18, 2008 at 9:07 am

    Okay, call me crazy, but I don’t want to file this in the ‘dismiss as wacky and ridiculous’ folder. What I started thinking about was the tendency to assign all human activity to places called ‘superior’ and all animal ativity to “inferior;” the tendency to look at the things we humans do and categorize them as “what sets us apart from all the other animals” and to look at animals as simply dumb — and largely expendable according to whatever whim of the moment makes them inconvenient to humans’ superior needs and wants — beasts.

    I find this fashion for teaching animals to paint (I’ve seen dolphins paint, a friend has a painting that an elephant did) intriguing, and maybe disturbing, more for what it suggests about the prejudices of humans than for whether the works that the animals produce may or may not be called Art.

  8. 8 eileen October 18, 2008 at 8:02 am

    Given the current economic worries, my greyhound had better get to work and earn his room and board. I’ll either tape a paintbrush to his tail or just have him walk through paint onto canvases. Fabric is not his “thing”, alas. He has an artistic soul so it should command a good price. Neigh!

    And thanks for the heads-up on the wacky layout of the horse’s website. I had to scroll *sideways* to find anything.

    Of course it is about the novelty!

  9. 9 Olga October 18, 2008 at 7:39 am

    Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant Kate! Just what I needed to shake my head of doubts and get on with it!

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