Artist of the Month: Sculptor Mindy Colton
Sculptor Mindy Colton LOVES HORSES. Growing up in New York City, she was privileged to be able to ride even as a child. As an adult, her equine-interest continues as she calls herself a “cow-girl” – one who lives a life sculpting beautifully unique horses and riding both at her “small horse farm” near Orlando, Florida and in her yearly trips to the “Old West” of Colorado and Arizona.
Growing up in New York in an art-loving family, she enjoyed an early passion for all things Artistic at the City’s unparalleled Museums. Colton graduated with honors from the prestigious and highly competitive High School of Music & Art in New York. She then spent two years at Parsons School of Design, eventually earning her BFA degree from Washington University School of Fine Art in St. Louis.
Colton’s award-winning Art – including sculptures, paintings, mixed media, print-making, and photography – has been exhibited in numerous solo shows and more than 100 group shows. A two-time State of Florida Grantee and three-time United Arts of Central Florida Grant recipient, two of the grants were for large-scale, outdoor sculptures. Renewal, a monumental sculpture exhibited at the Disney Epcot theme park, received Best of Show and People’s Choice Award in the 2006 Kissimmee Sculpture Experience and is included in this year’s City of Boynton Beach Art in Public Places. Wind Dancer, a life-size Pegasus exhibited at the Epcot Sculpture Invitational, was purchased by the University of Central Florida Honors College.
Colton’s horse sculptures are figurative abstractions with an expressionistic aesthetic. Vehicles for concepts, metaphors and human emotions, they range in size from table-top to monumental. The long, thin striding legs of her sculptures are carved tree limbs, the mane and tail of copper wire, and the bodies are of various materials. All of her works exhibit strength, determination and vulnerability. And yes, it may be said that those are the very qualities that form a successful Artist/Sculptor.
WE: Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get started? Who were your first MAJOR influences?
MC: Growing up in New York City – within walking distance to all the major museums gave me access to so much incredible art. Some of my earliest favorite artists were Bonheur, Calder, Benton, Chagall, the French Impressionists, the Fauvists, and the sculptors Marino Marini, Degas and Anna Hyatt Huntington. My parents were art lovers and collectors, and encouraged my growth as an artist. I went to art openings, had classical art training from a young age through classes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and with Margaret Schoen, who had classes for public school students who wanted to get into Music & Art. She was a major influence. Music & Art is incredibly competitive to get into – more like a college than a high school. We would spend a few weeks a year in Rockport, Mass at the end of summer with my Mother’s Best Friend and her Artist-Husband. It was the Artist-Husband who gave me my first real wooden artist’s box filled with oil paints (I was ten), and he would critique my early attempts with oil paints. I cherish that experience and I still have that box.
WE: Please use your own words to describe your art -- the medium, look, the effect on the viewer …
MC: My work is about horses, but really the horses carry the concept I am trying to express. There are lots of great equine artists, but I have always been interested in creating a story or a concept. The horses are the messengers. I love texture, color, and movement, and I strive to have all these elements in my work. I loved horses and rode from a very early age so I gravitated toward art featuring horses, but never had a preference for traditional.
I like the intimacy of the smaller pieces and the relationship I have built with many of the people who collect them; they become very personal to those people. On the other hand, I find it exciting that hundreds of people can experience and respond to the larger sculptures. People always comment on the long legs, and the tree limbs I use for the larger mixed -media pieces. I especially loved when my largest piece, (12 ft tall) ‘Renewal’ was at Disney’s Epcot Theme Park. I would stand there and watch people make comments and take their picture with my sculpture – at Disney!
I work in many different media. I started in bronze, which is unusual, because it is a very difficult medium – expensive and complex to create. I started working in ceramic and mixed media so I could have work that was accessible to more people and so I could have ‘control’ of the piece. I make the long-legged ceramic horses using steel rods for the legs. It takes a lot of patience as an artist, because they aren’t finished when they come out of the kiln. They take a lot more work to complete.
The Long Walk
WE: When/What happened to first make you think of yourself as an artist?
MC: I remember I was four years old. My Mother and her best friend (whose husband was the Rockport artist) were commenting on my artistic abilities. I loved creating things. My Mother gave up on the carpeting in my bedroom when I was eight. She put down replaceable tiles, and I remember thinking “this ART thing is fun and maybe there’s a future in it.” So – I was allowed to indulge in a lot of messy art projects. When I was 10, I saw my first Broadway musical – Carousel. I came home and built a whole set for the show using hatboxes. I remember doing Swan Lake too, collecting feathers in Central Park for the dancers. And I built a gas station -- probably because of the Mobil Pegasus logo. I was in my first “group show” in 6th Grade in a New York Bank and sold a piece. I was a PRO! I majored in set design at Music & Art, and then environmental/industrial design at Parson’s School of Design, which really was an eye opener. Buckminster Fuller was a regular visitor. I was just one of four girls in the class and the youngest at 16. I loved the big projects we worked on, but practicality headed me into Graphic Design. Wanting a campus experience, I headed to Washington University School of Fine Art in St. Louis.
WE: What inspires you NOW?
MC: Horses and the natural world continue to inspire me. Many of my sculptures are earthy and textured; I try to reflect that in my work. A cowgirl at heart, I take regular trips out west. I love the Rocky Mountains, the Red Rocks of Sedona, and the Western landscape. How people respond to my work also inspires me. Even though I started on this artistic journey when I was very young I never get tired of it and I find that positive reactions from viewers continue to feed my energy levels.
WE: Where is your favorite place to create art? What do you enjoy about the act of creating?
MC: I live on a five-acre horse property with my husband, two terrier dogs, and a cat. Years ago I designed and added a studio with big windows looking out on trees, pastures and the horse barn. The property supplies me with a lot of my natural materials. We’re very close to the Econ River and wildlife visit frequently. I usually don’t begin a piece until I have a solid picture of it in my mind. I enjoy seeing the idea develop. When they work and are finished, it is wonderful to see. Some pieces I want to “live” with before putting out there. It was two years before I was able to part with a signature piece after getting a number of offers for it, but today it is in a wonderful home with a former gallery director who has become a friend as well as a collector. (She has four pieces now).
WE: Describe the perfect ‘YOU’ sculpture.
MC: I don’t know if there is such a thing as the perfect “Me” piece. Each piece I do seems to be another step in my journey to a special piece. Seeing a new concept come to life is exciting and inspirational, but when I finish, I know there is more to come. I do think another monumental sculpture is ready to be created. The large ones are very special, because I can share those with a broader audience.
WE: Creating takes a lot of creative energy. How do you “re-charge” your batteries?
MC: Good question... I have to force myself to stop sometimes. When I get obsessed with a piece, I work on it seven days a week, and I usually have six or seven sculptures in various stages of progress. Some materials take a few days to set. In town, I load up the dogs and head to a local park that has the Little Econ River running through it. There are trails that meander into the woods. It is peaceful and quiet, and in a few minutes you feel you are not in civilization anymore. I try to travel and go to workshops in either Colorado or Arizona. That gives me a triple-espresso boost – travel, scenic West, and Art – the best kind of trip. The camaraderie of the other artists is very special; I’ve made so many friends from across the U.S. this way.
WE: What’s your fondest hope for the future of your career?
MC: I want to continue to grow and explore with my sculpture. I thought I would run out of horses by now, but each one I do seems to inspire another. I enjoy exhibiting around the U.S. and in areas that are equine oriented. For example, my sculptures are well received in the Seattle area every year in a big show out there, and my fervent hope is that I get some commissions to do more monumental works.
Ms. Colton’s work may be seen at the Trésor Gallery on Park Avenue in Winter Park, Florida; at the Noble Horse Gallery in Seattle, WA and at the gift shops of the Orlando Museum of Art and the Florida Museum of Art in Deland. The large body of her work will be exhibited at the Art League of Daytona Beach opening on Feb 5 and running through March 1. That will be followed by the Paint the Town Exhibit at the Gallery at Avalon Island in Orlando opening on March 15 and running to April 13.
Upcoming Exhibits include:
Dreams & Reality, a three-person Exhibit at the Art League of Daytona Beach,
Artist’s Opening Reception, Sunday Feb. 5 from 1 to 4 pm and running thru March 1.
Sculpting Nature at the McKee Botanical Garden with Opening Reception set for February 20 from 1 to 4 pm and running thru April 30.
The City of Deland, Florida Sculpture Walk (current) outdoors on the streets of Deland
Paint the Town Exhibit at the Gallery at Avalon Island in Orlando opening on March 15 and running to April 13.
Visions at the Henegar Center in Melbourne, FL opening on Feb. 11.
Florida Artists Group Show & Symposium at the Selby Gallery Ringling School of Art, opening May 11
Florida Artists Group Show in the Gallery at Orlando’s City Hall, late Fall 2012
Studio shots by Randall Smith
Josh Garrick is the Florida Arts Editor for Wandering Educators