Louisville Art Deco - Feature: Deco Echo - Rachel Sinclair's Art-Deco-Themed Gallopalooza Horse
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February 2009

Deco Echo:
Rachel Sinclair's Gallopalooza Horse

by Jim L. Patterson
2009, All Rights Reserved.

Photos by Jim L. Patterson - copyright 2009

Posing behind the Aegon Center building in downtown Louisville is a beautiful piece of creativity that's the result of the Gallopalooza 2004 program. If you've been in Louisville over the last five years, you no doubt noticed a large number of artistically painted horse statues all around town. While each horse is certainly unique, this particular one is of interest to Art Deco lovers. Why? Well, like the Art Deco influenced Aegon Center building, this particular Gallopalooza horse sports a deco-theme and features its sponsor's building (Aegon) in the artwork. Rachel Render Patton (now Rachel Sinclair) was its artist.

I've admired the horse since it was first displayed, and often wondered if its deco theme was the result of the artist's inspiration or perhaps someone at the sponsor who may have requested the subject matter. I decided it was about time to do some digging and discover something of this horse's creative inspiration.

Thanks to the assistance of Lynn Huffman, Executive Director of Gallopalooza, she put me in contact with the artist. I had several questions for Rachel and she enthusiastically answered each one. I'll share her replies now, interspersed with a number of detail photos of the horse at all angles. Click on any photo for a larger image.

Aegon Center

I asked Rachel about her background in art (education, experience, etc.)....

"Art was never a choice for me, it was just who I was. As so many say, I've been drawing since I could hold a crayon. I took my love of art through high school in Ohio County to Brescia University in Owensboro, KY. At first I majored in studio art, but circumstances aligned in such a way that I became interested in the graphic arts. I think my affinity for deco style aided in my decision to major in graphics. I work in the field today, but I still enjoy all types of media from painting and drawing to sewing and stained glass."

Unfortunately damaged

Chrysler Building

I was curious to find out how she got involved in painting the horse....

"As a child, I would visit Louisville to see family. When we would pass downtown, I would be plastered to the window, my eye always on the magnificent dome of the Aegon building. When I would see deco buildings on television or in books, I always remembered the Aegon tower. When the call for artists was issued for the first round of Gallopalooza, I thought for a long time on what I wanted to do. By that time, I was working downtown and got to see the tower every day. One day, it hit me, I had to design a deco horse and paint my favorite structure on the side."

"Architecture is music frozen in time" - Frank Lloyd Wright

How was the design created?

"I designed my horse with colored pencil at first. The main design was done to scale on a horse outline, the building sketches done separately. I used acrylic paints, my preferred paint medium, to implement the design. I spent months working on the details. My original design hadn't included a jockey, but Aegon had already agreed to sponsor a horse with a jockey so I had to add that part of the design."

What was the source of your inspiration for the details of your work?

"Though I can't be sure why, I've always been intrigued and awestruck by deco design. I remember poring over photos of deco posters and structures in my schoolbooks. I used to watch the television adaptation of Poirot on A&E every week mostly for the stunning deco look. The rounded corner buildings, the glass block, the rich wood panels, its gorgeous! There is just something breathtaking about the precise geometry and the magnificent marriage of wood, stone, glass, and metal. When designing my horse, I was never at a loss for inspiration.

For the buildings, I used, of course, the Aegon tower, but I needed three others to complete my design. Two are well known, the Empire State building and the Chrysler building. I also utilized the Chrysler building again for the horse's head, transforming it into one of the eagle-headed waterspouts on the building's corners. The fourth isn't as recognized, but in my book, should be. The Niagara-Mohawk Power building in Syracuse, New York is an amazing structure. The figurehead, the Spirit of Energy, with its metallic skin and sweeping wings, is a prime example of the lofty beauty that is art deco.

To fill out the design, I used two different stained glass motifs created by Frank Lloyd Wright. Though his work can oftentimes be described as prairie, I believe him to be a deco genius. The jockey, a later addition to my design as stated above, is awash in geometric lines in shades of grey. His back holds one of my favorite parts of the horse, the figure 4 in gold. My inspiration for this part was Charles Demuth's "The Figure Five in Gold." I've always adored the industrial feel of that particular painting. The number 4 was to represent Alysheba, the horse for which mine is named. Alysheba broke from gate 4 in 1987 and wore blue and white checkerboard colors, as represented by the cloth that drapes around the jockey.

With Deco Echo, I wanted to pay tribute to a time where man seemed to be at peace with being a small part of a bigger, more future-oriented universe. Art deco is palatial, but the palaces are studies in innovation and genius rather than effigies of personal accomplishment or chuckles in the face of convention. There is a consciousness in deco style to the basics of mathematics and geometry that make the buildings and other work undeniably beautiful. Though some see deco as decadent and over the top, I think it's the exact opposite. Deco shows us the ethereal beauty of every-day things and how something as simple as a line can be elaborately brilliant."

Niagara-Mohawk Building

Empire State Building

After you felt compelled to design a deco horse and paint your favorite structure on the side, how did you (as the artist) and Aegon (as the sponsor) come to be associated?

"Well, I decided on what I wanted to do and sketched the whole thing out. I had no idea anyone, much less Aegon would want it. It's was a shot in the dark, as they say. I sent the design to the Gallopalooza organizer, Lynn Huffman and she received it the same day she received the sponsorship information for Aegon. She told them she had something with their building on it. When they saw it, they took it immediately. I was lucky I guess. I never actually spoke person-to-person with anyone from Aegon, but they did generously give me a nice photograph to use as reference."

Rachel Sinclair lives and works in Louisville, KY. She can be reached by email at: rachaelrsinclair at hotmail dot com

You can find "Deco Echo" on display behind the Aegon Center Tower at 4th & Market Streets in Louisville, KY (if not stored away in the winter):

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