One of the earliest religious disappointments in a young girl’s life devolves upon her unanswered prayer for a horse. ~ Phyllis Theroux
I became enamored of horses at a very early age. I played horse, collected model horses, and read horse stories. I don’t know why I dreamt of horses. I probably had never seen one up close. Even my crayon scribbles were of horses.
I began exploring artistic interpretations of my thoughts about the connection between women and horses at an early age. When I was ten years old I drew a picture blending a woman’s face with a horse’s head in which they shared the same eyes. This desire to portray horses and women as one being was to become a frequent theme in my later work.
When I started showing my art, horse people expressed amazement that until the age of 30 I had never owned a horse and had only limited exposure to them. They wondered at how I could paint them so accurately in attitude and form if I hadn’t grown up with them.
These people never realized how powerful the imagination could be, for essentially I had grown up with them. The horses I imagined and painted were just as real to me as flesh and blood horses. They stomped and snorted, whinnied and galloped, pricked their ears, and watched me with intelligent and gentle eyes.
In 1995 I began a series I called the EquiSelf Series. The first piece was “We Are”. In it, I sought to portray the image of a woman with a horse that I felt had her same presence and attitude, as well as physical beauty and mysterious allure. The title expressed my interpretation that these two beings defined themselves in each other and in their sense of strength and purpose.
“To see her is to love her,
And love but her forever,
For Nature made her what she is.”
~ Robert Barns
“We Watch” was the second in the series. This piece was more ethereal, combining a ghostly image of a woman with her spirit horse in a way that would express their similarities; their sense of watchful awareness and intensity; at the same time both serious and serene.
“Approach us with care
we are wary of strangers,
yet as trust unfolds, we will allow.
True magic can happen, if you hearken.
We speak the language of dreams.”
– Kim McElroy
The next creation was “If Wishes Were Horses”. In this painting the woman’s dreams of horses were reflected in her own image. In my own interpretation, this symbolic image could convey the woman’s desire for a relationship with a horse, convey her own desire to be a horse herself.
” This one creature I have found who mirrors my soul…
…to him alone do I give the mystery of who I am.”
~ Author Unknown
Later I created “Longing” which expressed my continuing quest to connect with a real horse. In this piece, the woman looks at the horse with adoration, but the horse is elusive, looking off to a distant horizon, lost in its own inner world.
“He is all I love and long for
and have and have not…
all I have found, all I am seeking,
all I shall never find…
In some ways this piece became a premonition, for it was not long after its creation that I finally met a mare named Darma, the horse that was to become my first. Though Darma and I connected deeply and unmistakably upon our first encounter, like love at first sight that must form into a true relationship, it took some time for us to learn how to relate and trust each other. At times the unknown of how to relate to her seemed daunting.
The first year I owned Darma I created “Desert of Inspiration”, which conveyed my dream of the deep understanding and partnership I longed to have with Darma. In this piece, the woman and horse stand together in the desert. Their future is uncertain, yet they face it together on equal ground. They are independently strong, yet made stronger still by the presence of each other. The horse is guide and companion, and the woman and horse reflect each other’s powerful presence.
“Sometimes, when we are in the midst of the desert,
we may feel that we are without a path.
Yet if we tap into our own inner strength
we can see the way before us appear like a distant horizon wavering into form.”
~ Kim McElroy
As my relationship with Darma continues to expand, her presence in my life is constantly influencing my art, writing, and thoughts about horses and my inner self. As I look back and wonder at my lifelong love of horses, I find that my desire to communicate this love has led me to create eternal images that explore this mysterious connection.