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Sentinel, Style section
January 12, 2002
By NANCY REDWINE
SENTINEL STAFF WRITER
"Can be assembled and disassembled by adults only."
— Instructions for the Hedstrom Dakota 40-inch Pinto Horse
Assembly and disassembly are nothing compared to what local artists have done with 35 Hedstrom plastic ponies.
The toy horses were given to the artists by the 418 Project with one instruction: Have fun.
If you’re moseying around downtown, you’ll see the results rearing up in shop windows, on countertops or — in the case of Kathleen Crocetti’s "Lightning" — flying above your head.
The Year of the Horse Pony Brigade is the most exciting collaborative public art project in Santa Cruz since the Art Wall on Bay Avenue (which came down in May 1998).
The creations of the Pony Brigade will eventually be auctioned off as a fund-raiser for the 418 Project (an innovative dance and performance space in Santa Cruz).
The art event was inspired by the totemization of the pig in Seattle, the cow in Chicago, and the shark in San Jose.
"The original intention was to link it to the Year of the Horse and begin the display in February," said Chip of the 418 Project.
Then Trink Praxel, one of the organizers of First Night, "asked if we could have it ready for First Night," Chip recalled. "That pushed our schedule way up."
The Pony Brigade went from a trot to a gallop.
Dreaming of horses The 35 artists’ ponies on display in downtown shops and windows are compelling, humorous and disturbing.
For many people, they are evocative, especially for women who spent their girlhood dreaming of horses.
Artist Kathleen Crocetti was not one of those girls.
"When I was in third and fourth grade, the artists in the class were the girls who could draw horses," Crocetti said.
"So I hated horses and the girls who drew them. No one saw me as an artist then because I didn’t draw horses."
Crocetti’s pony, "Lightning," flies over the heads of diners at Chocolat on Pacific Avenue. The winged, illuminated equine was a logical extension of Crocetti’s trademark fiber-optic wings, which she’s been adding to costumes for such events as the 418 Project’s Seventh Sense Fashion Show.
Making wings for a toy pony was much easier than for humans, Crocetti said. People move.
Cutting two months off the original timeline created challenges for Chip and co-organizer Bridget Henry.
"We struggled for a while to get the horses themselves," Chip said. "We tried to get them donated, but people said, ‘Well, if you’d only contacted us sooner ... ’
"But we pulled this together in the typical 418 Project seat-of-the-pants fashion, throwing together a really good idea in a short period of time."
First Night provided the funds for purchase of 35 spring toy ponies.
The ponies first galloped into public view at the First Night Grand Procession, where 20 of them rode in wagons and on floats. The ponies spent the rest of the evening in a corral at Cooper Street.
"We’ve been challenged to get local visual artists to see how they can participate in First Night," said First Night founder Trink Praxel. "This project is easy entry for artists into public art.
"We’re hoping it will interest artists in exploring new ways to expand the visual art aspect of First Night."
‘I freaked out’ By the time the ponies arrived, many of the artists had already made sketches for their project.
"When I went to pick up the horse, I freaked out," said Faye Augustine, creator of "Pony Galore," in the window at Mr. Goodie’s on Pacific Avenue.
"It was smaller and more difficult to work with," she said. "I didn’t know what to do. So I just looked at it for a few days."
Painter Lynne Zachreson, who created "Midnight," had a number of ideas about what she would do with her pony, now in the window of Madame Sidecar on Cedar Street.
"But once I got the pony itself, it was like, ‘Oh no! What do I do with this little toy?’ " she recalled. "That sort of wiped the slate clean of all I’d been thinking about."
While scrubbing the paint off her pony, Zachreson remembered the experience of riding horses when she was young.
"I wanted that feeling of innocence contrasted with the wild nature of horses and how it carries a young girl into being a woman," she said. The result: a dark horse with a white dress riding in the saddle.
"I wanted the magic and power and scariness of darkness and the innocence of the dress being swept along with it," Zachreson explained.
Everything was a pony Riding a bouncing pony until the springs blow is an experience shared by many artists.
"When I was a kid, I fantasized that everything was a pony," said Jesse Sweetwater, creator of "Sweet Dreams," which is in the window of Rhythm Fusion on Plaza Lane off Pacific Avenue.
"I rode my bouncing horse every chance I got. I also had a little donkey with wheels that I rode until its ears were gone.
"Every birthday, I wished for a horse. Every library book I checked out was about horses."
Sweetwater, who got the flu about the same time she got her pony, was also stunned by what faced her.
"I had originally imagined a Klimt treatment," Sweetwater said. "But when I was faced with this little horse and its Western saddle, it seemed so childlike to me. So I had to change my course."
Sweetwater’s pony is integrated into the window at Rhythm Fusion, where it has gained rattles on its front legs, a pennywhistle in its mouth and a frog whistle in the saddle.
In distributing the ponies to businesses for their month-long exhibit, some matches were obvious — such as Matt Scott’s "Corky," inside Gabriella’s Wine Shop and Deli on Cedar Street.
"It was really fun matching the ponies with the businesses," Chip said. "It has been fun to see what people have done with window displays. Sean Monaghan’s ‘Hippocampus’ was perfect for the window at Marty Magic."
While many of the ponies are in store windows, some require (and are well worth) a little investigation: like Peter Koronakos’ "Self Portrait of Saint Michael on the Way to Do Battle With Satan," inside Jon Michaels Studio, Will Marino’s "Untitled" at Rouge, and Darryl Ferrucci’s double-pony work, "Protection 1 and 2," in Integrand Design — all located on Pacific Avenue.
"January is a slow time for retail and, in part, we saw the ponies as a great way to get people into the stores," said Chip, who is a board member of the Downtown Association.
Taking the time to wander from pony to pony reveals the vast diversity of local artists.
"This project gives artists a different medium to work," Praxel said. "Many of the artists who you might know, when you see their horse, it looks quite different than their other work. It allows artists the opportunity to explore some other approaches."
The majority of the ponies in the Pony Brigade are whimsically beautiful. The beauty of Dag Weiser’s "Who’s Really in the Saddle?" in the window at Metro Santa Cruz, is in its power to provoke.
From a distance, Weiser’s pony looks like an American flag, but a closer look reveals what’s in the saddle: an oil derrick dipping and rising on an oil-colored saddle.
"I wasn’t trying to push anyone’s buttons," Weiser said. "I just wanted to get people thinking a little about the issue of oil and our country — not that everyone doesn’t think about it all the time."
Weiser’s creation caused a minor flap at First Night when several workers expressed concern about its political nature.
"They wanted to cover the title," Weiser said. "We ended up talking to the director, who OK’d leaving it the way it was. Everyone was very nice, but it took some talking."
Even if you only see one pony out of 35, you’ll be treated to a burst of the artistic energy that infuses Santa Cruz. But if you see more, you’ll get an idea of the wide range of visions and how they fit together like a herd of ponies.
"It’s the repetition of seeing that shape over and over again. It makes people pay attention," Zachreson said.
"It makes people happy for a second," said Maria Pietri Lalor, creator of "Dream Horse," in the window at Bookshop Santa Cruz on Pacific Avenue. "That’s enough for me."
The Year of the Horse Pony Brigade Auction will take place Sunday, Feb. 24, at the 418 Project, located at 418 Front St. in downtown Santa Cruz.
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