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When Horses Fly

When Horses Fly, stone sculpture by Ellen Woodbury

“When Horses Fly” is a stone sculpture homage to taking risks, metaphoric leaps into the unknown—leaps of choice, leaps of necessity, leaps of joy, leaps of faith.

Inspiration

My awesome friends who ride horses initially inspired my idea for this jumping horse. We began riding together in the 1980’s, taking riding lessons at the LA Equestrian Center. We rode for many years together, and remain close friends after 30 years. Our bonds with horses and each other run deep.

We are a group of 8 friends, all of whom still ride, compete, and work with horses as a big part of our daily lives, except me. I sculpt them as my reverie since my horses have crossed on to greener pastures. Once a horse person, always a horse person.

The experience of leaping up into the air on an enormous animal is a powerful sensation. Logic dictates that you will come back to earth. Training guides a safe, mostly predictable landing—one that sets you up for the next jump. That is the intellectual part. The pay-off happens in the air. Flying, freedom, fun, fabulous! We ride on to leap again.

The black horse itself is inspired by my friend Jane’s awesome jumping mare, Belle.

Leaping

It occurred to me that my horse friends are also independent entrepreneurs, artists, world travelers, people who launch themselves into the unknown every day. The more I thought about this, the more I realized that nearly everyone I know takes risks in their lives.

Many of my friends and family have reinvented themselves, launching into a new career, finding a new home in a different place, leaping sometimes by choice and sometimes because they have to. Many of my friends are artists—musicians who put themselves out there to perform, visual artists who have the passion to make their ideas real and share them.

My Daily Leap

It is a leap for me every time I cut into a stone to create a sculpture. I have no idea what is really inside the stone. There could be a big chunk of quartz or an internal fissure. There could be a tension line through the stone that could be released as I am cutting, and a chunk could just fall off the block. I often try new stones I have never carved before. There is always a learning curve involved with discovering the properties of the stone, and I never know how the stone will respond to cutting and finishing until I try it.

There is a thrill to taking chances. The more chances one takes, the more the thrill becomes familiar, which is not to say mundane. It is just not as scary. I take a chance every time I put blade to stone. It is a chance I take to realize my vision.

Mystery Stone

This marble is called Atlantic Black because it is quarried somewhere on the Atlantic coast—the continent is intentionally undisclosed. We are not able to get the black marbles we had in the past, so my stone broker, Myles Schachter, is keeping the source of Atlantic Black a secret. My favorite black marble, Mongolian Imperial Black, is no longer available because the vein has run out. Belgium Black is scarce.  

This is my first time carving Atlantic Black. It is chippy, but a nice carve. The finish is very challenging. It is a hard marble and quickly dulled my steel files at that stage in the finish. The fossilized shell is in wide veins with large pieces of shell, and it is the same hardness as the black marble.  Since the shell has a lot of substance, it does not disappear during the finishing process. This is wonderful! The bands of seashells are gorgeous, the black is very rich, and this makes the tough process worth all the patience and finger-power. I look forward to carving Atlantic Black again.

The Same Inspiration For Flying Horses

I was the Directing Animator on Pegasus, the flying horse, in Disney’s animated feature “Hercules.” “When Horses Fly” was not inspired by my experience creating and animating Pegasus. Rather, my life with horses and the camaraderie of friends in my horse community inspired Pegasus and this sculpture. I find that life experiences recycle through my art in many ways, each has complex layers that weave and collide with my ideas. It is pretty neat to discover connections made conscious through my art.

A Toast

Here’s to the leapers—the re-inventors, the artists, the musicians, the adventurers! May we leap often, land well, and ride on.

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When Horses Fly

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