Drifter stands nose to the breeze like she’s ready to whinny or take off at a moment’s notice.
But this horse isn’t going anywhere unless someone moves her. She’s a life-size mare created from findings on local beaches.
“Not a stick of driftwood on Vancouver Island has missed my scrutiny,” says artist Cheryl Moore. “Drifter has pieces of Kye Bay, Point Holmes, Rebecca Spit and other beaches in her. Some of the best have come from behind Portuguese Joe’s.”
Moore’s obsession with horses and wood began while she was artist in residence at Clayoquot Wilderness Resort on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
“They asked me to create a driftwood horse and I decided to give it a try,” she says. “But while the resort was closed for the winter, my horse got damaged by a mudslide. Someone decided it was ruined and burned it.”
But by this time Moore was hooked on fitting random pieces of wood together to create a horse.
“I love everything about the project,” she admits. “Wandering around on beaches looking for interesting sticks and then coming home and walking around Drifter again and again looking for just the right place to put them.
“Sometimes I think I have the perfect piece and then it just doesn’t quite work,” she adds. “It’s a celebration every time something fits. I try not to alter the driftwood in any way so it’s a real challenge. And sometimes a piece will work in more than one place so I have a difficult decision to make.”
Even up close, it’s not noticeable that the stand-free, self-supporting horse is built on a steel frame or held together by screws. And what’s amazing, is that from face to flank, the body curves and flows in a remarkable facsimile of a real animal.
Although she’s never owned one, Moore has always loved horses. And seven seasons at Clayoquot provided ample opportunity to observe the layering and play of muscle and flesh. She tweaked her personal knowledge of a horse’s anatomy with research on the Internet.
As far as Moore knows, she is the only person in Canada working on a driftwood horse.
A puzzle for Moore was how to construct the lower legs and hooves.
A sculptor friend told her how she sometimes uses insulation. So Moore glued layers of the pink stuff into sections six inches wide and then cut them into the shape of a horse’s forelegs and hooves with a band saw. They will eventually be covered with wood sculpture putty.
Moore’s journey to driftwood sculptor was a circuitous one. Originally from Ontario she worked for 20 years as an art director in the magazine industry for publications such as Outdoor Magazine and Photo Life.
Then the magazine industry started to change and Moore decided she wanted to get away from computers and try something different. She answered a help wanted ad for Clayoquot Wilderness Resort.
“I love it there; it’s so beautiful,” she says. “But after the first season I wasn’t sure if it was the right job for me.”
So she headed back to Ontario and got a job as art director for Ontario Place. But she couldn’t see outside and missed the water and mist of Clayoquot.
Then she Googled Adirondack chair for a logo idea and one appeared that looked just like one back at the resort. The clincher was when she bought three Kinder Surprises (hollow chocolate with a tiny toy inside) and discovered a crab, a pony and a miniature boat.
For close to eight years Moore has spent summers in Clayoquot and divided winters between the Comox Valley, visiting family in Ontario and driving her RV to Mexico.
But she’s ready for another change and won’t be going back to the resort. Instead she’s looking for a place to finish Drifter.
Last year she was selected to participate in the national Kingsbrae Garden Sculpture competition. The prestigious annual event awards a $10,000 prize to the winning entry.
Then a bout of sciatica meant she couldn’t finish her sculpture on time. And the studio she was renting was sold, so Drifter’s now pastured under a tarp in an alley.
Moore’s working full time until the end of May but is looking for a place to rent to finish her project. It needs to be a heated indoor space with good lighting. Something the size of a three-car garage would be perfect.
Moore’s eager to start working on Drifter full time in June and estimates it will take her two months to finish the horse. If you’re interested in renting space for a creative project, e-mail Moore at email@example.com.
More information about Moore and her art is available at www.artofmine.com.
Paula Wild is a published author and regular contributor to the Comox Valley Record’s arts and entertainment section.