With their natural beauty, historical significance and symbolic stature, horses have long been popular subjects for painters, sculptors and other creative minds.
But Edmond artist Jennifer Cocoma Hustis hopes her new exhibition does more than just convey her deeply felt love of horses. She wants her work to educate viewers on topics such as equine anatomy, herd relationships and the government's wild mustang policies.
Her exhibit, “Untamed: The Mustang's Plight and Behavior Through Art,” is on view at the Science Museum Oklahoma's Satellite Galleries.
“They're an American icon,” Hustis said. “I feel the mustangs are our responsibility for our country. There is legislation that protects them, and really I just feel a big responsibility not just to mustangs but to the horse in general.”
Hustis will be on hand at an opening reception for “Untamed” from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday at the museum, and riders and horses from the Oklahoma City Police Department's mounted patrol are expected to greet guests.
The event is free and open to the public.
“It's not just another horse show. You know, there are many horse artists out there, so many people that are painting horses,” said Scott Henderson, director of the museum's Satellite Galleries.
“That's what people are going to get out of this: They're going to see beautiful art, but they're also going to walk away with something. Even horse people are going to learn something here with this show.”
Born in Chicago, Hustis, 42, moved with her parents when she was just 2 years old to an Edmond neighborhood where horses lived. By the time she was 8, her mother placed her in riding lessons since the aspiring artist had a tendency to ride off on random steeds.
“Horses and art have just always been there for me in my life,” Hustis said. “I got off the bus, I'd have a sketchpad, I'd go find the horses, and I'd sit and study them. You know, I was sort of the quiet type that likes to sit back and watch a situation, and horses kind of like to do the same thing.”
When she was 10, she began competing as a hunter jumper, but when she went off to college at the University of Oklahoma, she had to sell her horse.
“For the four years of undergrad, I didn't want to talk about horses or anything. It was just like it hurt too much to have them and then not have them. Then I went to graduate school in New York (at Pratt Institute) and the horses came back in my artwork. And that's pretty much all I've painted since,” she said.