As we wandered round the ‘Prestige Village’ at the Longines Masters in Los Angeles, some unusual and majestic works caught our attention. Those clay sculptures looked almost real! The artist was Stephanie Revennaugh, and what she had to say was as remarkable as her work...
Stephanie, how did this passion for horses arise?
I like to think that horses chose me. Long before I was around horses a fascination for their beauty and strength captivated my imagination. At the age of seven we moved to a rural home in Ohio where the neighbors had horses. I thought it was heaven! My childhood was filled gallivanting around the hills, pastures, and woods on horseback. When my family moved to South America when I was 12, I was introduced to show jumping. Over the years I worked for a few hunter/jumper/dressage barns.
As a young child, you drew horses. But sculpture is something totally different. How did you learn sculpture?
Making visual art is largely about seeing. The process for me between drawing and sculpting is not much different. Sculpture is simply a drawing from 1,000 different angles. The years spent riding, grooming and observing horses has ingrained their language, movement and energy into me. Creating their form, that drawing from 1,000 views, flows easily out of me into clay. My approach to sculpture comes out of experience with oil paint. I apply the clay with brush work in mind.
Yes, because you also studied painting for three years. Was it already your ambition to paint horses?
When I studied painting I purposely did not paint horses. Learning to create art was more important than getting caught up in the subject. It wasn't until I started sculpting that I returned to the horse. I have noticed there are many good artists that try unsuccessfully to render horses, and just as many horse people who try to make art. It is special to create evocative equine art. Successfully marrying horse and art. That is my endeavor.
You have exhibited at the World Cup and other Longines Masters. How have the most famous horseriders described your work?
When first showing work to an expert equestrian audience I was nervous. Immediately, the response was overwhelmingly positive. I am often complimented on my understanding of equine anatomy and behavior. But, what people enjoy most is the texture and movement. People always want to touch the work, which I encourage! It was a huge honor presenting a sculpture to Beezie Madden when she won the Grand Prix at Longines FEI World Cup Jumping DelMar 2015.
Feeling and expression seem to be very important for you. How do you manage to describe a feeling with a single sculpture?
Upon beginning a work I usually have an idea in mind to express. The most recent piece, still unnamed, depicts two horses scratching one another. We have all seen it a thousand times when the ponies are turned out. I wanted to celebrate companionship. I hope to evoke in viewers a sense of warmth, love, kindness, joy. These are the feelings I feel when I see horses nibbling one another in real life. Another piece, Sola, is a wild horse I saw in South Dakota, USA. She is a bit melancholy. Her life hasn't been easy but she is noble and capable.
Where did the idea of taking underwater photographs of the horses in the pool come from? Were they especially hard to take?Art has been your full time work for six years now. So could we say that your work is the result of your life? A transmission of your passion into art?
It is as you say, a transmission of my passion into art. I have designed a life around art and horses. And whippets too! (She laughs) My beloved hounds also appear in my work. I feel blessed to be traveling this path. I have the best job!
Text by Maxime Pasture