Trojan Horse

“Seeing the horse again makes me want to make another one.”

Donna Kato, Horse, 1997, 18″ hThat was Donna Kato’s reaction when I asked for her thoughts about what may be the most beloved piece exhibited at the 1997 Masters Invitational Polymer Clay Exhibition and Sale (MIPCES). The New Jersey event, which I conceived and coordinated, brought together 28 artists from across the country.

Even though MIPCES took place 11 years ago, people who reminisce about the show with me still bring up their vivid memories of seeing Donna’s creation standing proudly on its pedestal. The question I’m asked most about that work is, “What ever happened to it?”

Before I answer that question, let me give you a little background about its creation. Here’s Donna’s description of herself as a child: “I ran around the schoolyard just like all other little girls, but I was the one pretending to be a horse.” Currently, Donna owns and cares for nine horses. So creating one for MIPCES wasn’t exactly a random choice.

The MIPCES challenge was to “push the envelope” in creating polymer art. Donna Kato, Pegasus, 1995, 8″ hDonna responded by reinterpreting one of her miniature sculptures into the 18′ tall MIPCES version suggesting the famous horse from Greek mythology. Instead of portraying the animal traditionally as a symbol of mischief, she gave it magical radiance. Built from gold Sculpey over a foil armature, it was layered with strips of crackled leaf and translucent polymer then polished to a glowing sheen.

Flying to New Jersey from her home in Chicago, Donna cradled her horse in her arms as she got onto the plane. The equine rested on her lap for the duration of the flight. Then up on its pedestal at the Old Church Cultural Center in Demarest NJ, it stood proudly for the next twenty-seven days.

The trip back to Chicago was via a UPS truck rather than a Continental Airlines plane. And without Donna’s tender care, it ended up in fragments. Donna says a little sadly, “He went to Sculpey heaven.”

Here’s a little more of what Donna had to say about her piece:
“I’ve always loved horses! In my first book I sculpted a small Pegasus in the style of Botero. Very chubby, little tiny wings… Of all the sculptures I have made, although he might not be the most detailed, he’s the one that always makes me smile… I love that little sculpture so, to the best of my recollection, I decided to make a large one. At the time, I’d been working with crackled leaf with a very thin translucent protective layer. The strips and backfilling gave the piece a wooden look – so he (became) a Trojan horse.”

(Pegasus image coutesty of Vernon Ezell)

I cannot remember a time in my life that I wasn't interested in looking at art, talking about art and the making of art. In 1990 I earned a Phd in art history at the University of Maryland. My first experiences with polymer clay were in 1992, but I consider my real work with the medium to date from 1999.