Brent Gill, Staff Writer
Savannah College of Art and Design graduate Julie Ferris’ second solo exhibition, “The Art Horse: Series I,” opened at the Mansion on Forsyth Park this weekend. Ferris works with oil paint on canvas, focusing on equestrian themes.
Her experience riding horses on SCAD’s Equestrian Team solidified her love for horses’ noble personalities. The art of George Stubbs, Theodore Gericault, Sir Alfred Munnings and Rosa Bonheur are among her several influences.
However, these horse paintings are not the stuff of old, stuffy libraries. Ferris has an enlightened grasp of color theory and her choices in cropping and composition show years of close study invested in her subject.
“Their beauty, speed, grace, elegance, regality and wild, yet obedient spirit are all attributes that attract me to them. I want people to see my paintings and experience wonder and joy in the subject that is painted,” Ferris said.
Particularly interesting is how the she details the play of light on her subjects. Painting hair or fur can be a daunting task but Ferris uses refractory colors to imply the subtle way light is broken up and diffused on the individual hair follicles of a living being. Perhaps the best testament to her skill is that her work stands up to close scrutiny just as well as when viewed at a room’s length.
Many of the Ferris’s pieces also contain elements of narrative, something many artists fail to achieve when painting single subjects. Her careful consideration of composition shows one horse’s playful curiosity; in another, the creature’s gentle knowledge of its own strength is easily apparent.
One piece in particular, “Lead Me,” shows the animal stretching forward toward the hand that holds its reins, the thin chain going slack between horse and handler, implying a bond that goes beyond the relationship of master to subject.
You can view Julie Ferris’s art at the Mansion on Forsyth Park through Sept. 30. The gallery is free and open to the public. Find out more about Julie Ferris on julieferrisart.com, and read about the other artists on display at the Mansion on Forsyth at kesslercollection.com.