“The horse as a subject transcends all nationalities,” says Incline Village sculptor June Towill Brown. “Everyone loves and understands horses.”
Brown captures the restless spirit of the animal—namely Arabian stallions, Friesians and, most recently, the Gypsy Vanner, a breed of draft horse originating in England—in her award-winning bronze sculptures. Yet, her passion for her subject and, for that matter, her medium, is a far cry from her early days as an artist.
A graduate of and former instructor at UCLA, the bulk of Brown’s creative life was spent in Southern California teaching and running a successful interior design firm, a field in which she remains active. For years, Brown taught classes in color composition, antiques and collectibles, but her life as a sculptor had less academic beginnings.
“It started with a glass of wine before the holidays,” Brown says. She wanted to make a vintage-style Santa for herself, which eventually led to designing, showing and selling art dolls, and taking sculpture classes. Twelve years later, her impressive portfolio includes not only horses, but also bronze-cast Native Americans, fishermen and Shakespearean characters.
Brown delves into many of her subjects via a trilogy of pieces connected through a common thread. “I start with a theme,” she says. “Then I sculpt around the theme. Three pieces tell a story and the excitement to me is creating that story.”
Gentle Giants, for example, explores the colorations and playful movements of the Gypsy Vanner, which Brown likens to “carousel horses.” The series comprises Gypsy Dancer, Gypsy Spirit and Gypsy Fire, and are available in bronze-cast limited editions, though Brown also cast Gypsy Fire in Lucite. As her first Lucite casting, the piece comes to life in a completely different nature with a more contemporary result.
“Some pieces are meant to only be in bronze, but for some, bronze feels too heavy,” says Brown. “The flow and movement in that particular horse lends itself to the translucence of Lucite.”
Brown is currently working on a trilogy about Gypsy Vanner mares and their foals, to include a sculpture of the mare nuzzling the foal and one of the mare teaching the foal to trot. She also recently traveled to Sedona, Arizona, to do preliminary research on a piece that tells the story of female mules (which cannot breed on their own) that are impregnated with Gypsy Vanner eggs.
“A female mule will try to steal a foal from its mother because it is naturally maternal,” says Brown. “I find the whole thing very interesting—you are constantly learning.” She observed the mule moms interacting with their Gypsy Vanner foals while the handlers took the animals’ measurements. “You have to know ‘the real’ before you can take artistic license,” she says. “You have to think of proportion and scale or the eye will get stuck.”
Indeed, meticulous research and in-depth self education inform the details of Brown’s work, which is conveyed in the electricity, power and depth of expression of her pieces. Both Gypsy Fire and Bloodline, a piece from an Arabian horse trilogy, have received awards in the Best and Brightest Juried Art Show in Scottsdale, Arizona. Gypsy Fire was also chosen as a finalist in the Women Artists of the West 40th annual celebration, a juried show held at the Olaf Wieghorst Museum in El Cajon, California. Most recently, Gypsy Spirit brought home an award from the Art at the Classic show during the 2010 Grass Valley Draft Horse Classic.
“Sculpting is fascinating,” says Brown. “I am learning about the incredible spirit of life in all things—and I love this journey.”
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