Monday, June 15, 2015

From Flesh and Blood to Folded Steel

Veterinarians work with their hands. We palpate, we pet, we suture, we cut, we bandage. Some of us use hands for more than clinical efforts in the hospital; painting and drawing are some recent examples here on VetWrite. But what about bringing art into the third dimension? Let's hear from Dr. Patricia Frederick, equine veterinarian and sculptor.
Dr. Pat Frederick
Originally from Arizona, Pat grew up with a fierce love of horses. With no horse of her own, Pat had the good fortune to have a friend with a horse that needed exercising in the summer. Soon enough, this led to a job at a dude ranch, all at the age of 11. "Imagine a child of that age guiding ranch guests out on trails," says Pat. "Holy cow!"

Naturally, Pat chose to pursue an education in veterinary medicine with a focus on horses. "I was part of a five member surgery team in veterinary school," Pat recalls. "We were given a unique class while the small animal surgeries were filled with the other 44 students. Of course, we did small animal surgery, too. We had to argue to get the horse experience." Pat graduated from Washington State University's vet school in 1966.

"Amigos", by Pat Frederick, DVM
Although Pat did some drawing during her childhood, she admits most of her spare time was spent on horseback. However, once Pat had young children of her own, she started working with clay. "I did clay for several years," she says. When her family moved to Australia in 1984 due to a job opportunity for her husband, Pat took a ceramics course and then pursued an associate degree in painting.

"When we returned to Arizona [in 1991], I had ceramic sculptures which were fragile. I was fortunate to get private tutoring for bronze sculpture. As I learned how much welding the bronzes required, after casting, I took a welding class and was hooked. Steel was not only more available but cheaper and I thought easier to sell."

Pat stopped practicing when she turned 63. It was then that she was able to devote herself completely to her art. Prior to this switch, Pat held certifications in chiropractic medicine, holistic veterinary medicine, and acupuncture. "I have always wanted to 'do art' since high school," Pat says. "I liked biology, too, and science in general, but the art 'thing' was what I tried to make time for as our children grew."

However, it was only after veterinary retirement that Pat was able to immerse herself in her art. "I knew that as I aged I could someday misjudge a horse and get hurt, so I decided to quit veterinary work and start a new job. There is a pretty high learning curve in Art Business which I study seriously. I have shown in many galleries, attended workshops, teach, and generally practice, practice, practice."

"Practice, practice, practice."

Pat's lifelong love of horses is evident in her steel pieces, as a vast majority of her sculptures are of the equine species. Pat's appreciation for horses, however, goes much further than the skin deep beauty of the creature. "Whenever anyone gets on a horse they are immediately on top of the world," Pat says. "Not only are we above the rest of the humans but we are also imbued with a heroic feeling and have an energy under us which is thrilling and useful."
"Tango", by Pat Frederick, DVM
This concept of Horses Make Heroes has heavily influenced many of Pat's pieces. "Of course, no one has to be on top of the horse to feel the hero as brushing, cleaning feet, and feeling a soft hot breath on your neck is as magical as any time can be," she says. "As a veterinarian, this feeling continued when I went into my unique fields with sport horses because after a chiropractic and acupuncture treatment, most horses actually step forward and say thank you with closeness and breath and relaxation."
"Good Luck", by Pat Frederick, DVM
Now with well over 100 pieces to her name and projects gracing numerous galleries in Arizona as well as Australia and Tasmania, Pat estimates she completes about six pieces a year. This of course is highly dependent on their size. The largest project Pat has completed is called "Carousel of Life," a piece with five horses that took her almost a year. The entire piece is fifteen feet in diameter and consists of glass, steel, aluminum, copper, silver, bronze, cement, and wood.

"The time involved encompasses the drawings and research," Pat explains. "A couple of months of three to six hour days and four to five days per week." A step by step process, Pat likens sculpting to drawing, but with steel, not graphite.

Another example of a deep rooted message within Pat's work is a series she calls "Hippophagy." A result of Pat's desire to comment on the debate of horse slaughter and eating horse meat, these pieces are a way to evoke thought and self-reflection among horse owners and the choices they make that may or may not contribute to horse overpopulation. "People are so polarized by 'eating' horse and don't seem to realize why US horses end there," she says. "I felt I needed to call attention to the work in order to get it noticed." Next to the piece as a whole, Pat places a long dialog, called "Menu."

"Menu", by Pat Frederick, DVM
"Dining Out", by Pat Frederick, DVM
"I feel that the horses that are sent to slaughter if done humanely in both travel and killing are getting a better end than they might have done when the recession hit," she continues. "We breed too many dogs, cats, and horses in many countries and then they suffer sad lives and a hard end of life. I guess my bottom line is: if there are so many horses being shipped to slaughter for meat, whose fault is it?"
"Friends Dying", by Pat Frederick, DVM
Like other artists who have been featured on here on VetWrite, Pat emphasizes how her veterinary knowledge of anatomy is a basic building block for her art. "The essence of the animal is basically the energy they are putting into a movement with the correct anatomy," she says. After the primary correct structure is captured, Pat lets her creative side take over. "Once the posture and bones of the armature are in place, I stop being realistic. I have never wanted to capture a purely realistic look--just the essence--so that your own mind and eye fills in the spaces which you don't see without knowing it."

Pat draws inspiration for her pieces from her memory and things she has seen. For her piece "Corowa Sheila", Pat was driving through a town called Howlong, in New South Wales, Australia. "I saw a young girl lying on her horse, obviously waiting for a friend," she says. "The horse was appreciating the shade of a gum tree."
"Corowa Shelia" by Pat Frederick, DVM

In another piece called "Hope," Pat recalls a horse show she attended. "I was getting ready to show and saw a horse standing in a single wire 'stall,'" she says. "It was constructed with the little nylon posts which hold hot wire. He was a big, lanky Thoroughbred and the girl who left him there had put a bucket just out of reach. He was stretching with every sinew of his body to reach the bucket without stepping out of the enclosure."
"Hope" by Pat Frederick. DVM
"I have been very lucky to have such a supportive husband and sons who do whatever they can to encourage me," Pat says. When asked what advice she can offer to others aspiring to explore their creative outlets, she says this: "Just DO it. Try to make time for your hobby. There are so many different forms of artistic expression--the world is your oyster."

Stay tuned for July 6 for the next post.

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