Challenged to depict, in a single image, what horses mean to Kentucky, Emily Adams found herself in a quandary.
In a horse-crazy state, where Derby Day is as important as Christmas, would it even be possible to answer the question, let alone make it into a picture? “In Kentucky there are so many people who love horses and no one person can explain what horses mean,” she said.
So the Russell eighth-grader turned the question upside down, took out her charcoal and a sheet of drawing paper, and in the span of a single day had her answer.
It’s an extreme closeup of a horse’s eye, the pupil in the shape of the outline of the Commonwealth, three tiny equine silhouettes racing along the rim.
“What horses mean is not the same to everybody. It’s in the eye of the beholder,” she explained.
Emily entered her drawing, which she titled “Unbridled,” in a competition at the 2013 Kentucky Equine Youth Festival last month and was the middle-school winner. Her image was reproduced on a bookmark which visitors to the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington will find there this season.
What horses mean to Emily is easier to explain. She comes from a horsey family; her father Brad Adams keeps horses at his home in Winchester and her mother Angela Bramblett enables her regular riding sessions at a local stable and is planning to take her to the horse park this summer.
She has been riding for about a year but horses have always been a part of her life. She’s the kind of kid whose room is decorated with equine art.
Her interest in art she traces to sixth grade and the mentorship of her middle-school art teacher Tim Decker. “I learned to see light and how colors work together ... how light brings depth,” she said.
Since then she also has discovered the emotional depth an artist can bring to a picture, the way colors and shades of gray do the same thing in a picture that words do in a poem. “I discovered I like to have a part of me in each drawing,” she said.
Teaching her was largely a matter of giving her materials to work with and getting out of the way, according to Decker, who is accustomed to spotting potential talent in the callow tweens who populate his classes. “Like a lot of good artists I’ve had in the past, she had trouble doing the assignments. She wanted to do her own work,” he said.
Decker was astonished at the originality of Emily’s contest entry. He had expected her to choose a more conventional approach, perhaps with horses running and jumping against a pastoral background. “I couldn’t believe my eyes when she brought it to school,” he said.
MIKE JAMES can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2652.