12"h x 24"l x 14"w;
Photo by Kendrick Moholt
When I first moved to Halfway, the owner of a gallery I work with said, "Oh great! Now you will be making cows."
I am not too terribly interested in cows as friends, or even the aesthetic amenities of cows. In fact I am almost impervious to "bovine magnetism". The horns do get my attention, and they should. A Brahman bull, or most any older bull can command a fair amount of attention with or without horns for their surprising agility and power, but what really interests me about cattle is how much of our lives in the west revolve around cows and their
place in our landscape. Our land is fenced and irrigated and groomed more or less in perpetuity because of our relationship with cattle and other livestock. Where horses might imply wealth, in this age cattle are wealth. Essentially they are living storage facilities for accumulating seasonal vegetation into a useful product. Nobody raises cattle for lawn ornaments, at least not where I live. With a few exceptions, beef cattle aren't even particularly domestic. They have been bred for manageability, somewhat, but mostly for meat.
The most obvious qualities one notices of cattle are their amazing girth, the sheer meat-on-feet efficiency of the body, and the little "nobody home" sign in their eyes. Of course anyone who spends any time around cows know that this "nobody home" sign can flash "OPEN FOR BUSINESS" in a heartbeat. While it seems intuitive that a human being with his or her "BIG BRAIN" would outthink a cow every time in figuring angle and speed of pursuit and fence sturdiness, but if the human is on foot, the betting man should go with the cow.
Is a cow an appropriate 'objet d'art'? I don't know. It's a real squeaker. But if art is about our experiences in this world, a small bunch of cows can very effectively exercise ones entire emotional spectrum. Because we pasture cattle, I have personally run the gamut of feelings from bucolic serenity, agitation, anger, determination, pursuit, rage, humiliation, fear, panic, retreat, despair, defeat, acceptance, wonder, hope, and contentment, all in the period of about ten minutes, more or less in that order, and often several times in a single day.
And I am not alone. These are not surprising words of wonder to the rancher. I once happened upon a seasoned cattleman standing covered in
dust, glasses askew, humiliated and exhausted, holding a length of two-by-four in the middle of a corral with a single cow. The cow was, by my calculations, no worse for the wear. With tears streaming down his face, and his only words completely incoherent, it was my impression he too had been "through the emotions".
Aesthetics aside, for pure efficiency, whether as storage facility or as engine of emotional exercise, the humble bovine I think well deserves it's place in our artistic repertoire. With my "Cache Bull" image, I try to express our history with these creatures, for both what nature has provided in the equation, and what we humans have contributed over thousands of generations of selective breeding. My bull is both bovine, the animal, and man made artifact of a long and deliberate history.