Wild Horses and our Naturally Wild Souls

paper horse

paper horses

Last night at our first monthly Girls Art Night at 1+1=1 Gallery (Brown Bird Studio) we were inspired by Ann Wood’s creative exercise to make these absolutely delightful horses. We were a small group — just the perfect size, though as we continue to do these art-nights I hope other women will join us.

paper horse

Shayna, Jaime, Cari and I gave some of our horses to Whitney, who is ready to give birth any day now. Her little boy will be born in the Year of the Horse. He will have a herd of wild horses to remind him of his naturally wild joy. With a mama like Whitney we know he’ll grow up snorting with laughter, jumping with glee and letting his wildness out into the world. (*See bottom of this post for some interesting predictions about this baby — and other babies born in this year of the horse.)

Whitney's Horse

paper horses wild horses

“Last night was like a symbolic circling of all the mares … lending the strength of those who have gone before, to the one ready to walk through that door that you never, ever can cross back through … the becoming of motherhood and the strength and grace of sisterhood … so special to me” — Jaime Terry

paper horse

We made horses. We laughed. She contracted. We played. Relaxed. Listened to her talk about the baby, the baby’s name, the nest she is preparing. Talked about lack of sleep and future lack of sleep and hope for sleep. And about other things. And nothing at all.

paper horse

Our hands busy with scissors and paint and buttons. Good food. Good wine. Good company. It’s what women do. We nurture each other with food and listening and love and open arms. A circling of the mares.


We decided to do this every month. Something artsy. Something to connect us. To each other. To our souls. To the Earth.

paper horse

Please join us at our next Girls Art Night with Brown Bird Studio on the last Thursday of each month. Like our gallery’s facebook page or sign up for updates from 1+1=1 Gallery, and we’ll remind you a few days in advance. Put Girls Art Night on your calendar for March 27th at 6:30 pm. 335 North Last Chance Gulch, Helena.

paper horses art night

Our evening gatherings are all about being relaxed and nurturing our inner artistic souls.

Whether you consider yourself artsy or “crafty” or not, I promise you will have a good time. And don’t forget we’ll share food, music and laughter too. The cost is free or minimal, depending on the materials we use.




Get into the head of an artist at work

Woodland with Icon and Cross

I collect images, mostly with my own camera, but also from old manuscripts, ephemera, found objects, cultural flotsam and jetsam. Sometimes I do digital collage, other times I work with paper, paint, drawing tools and glue in 2 dimensions or I make 3D mixed media sculptures. I work in layers, often more than twenty or thirty layers, as I am trying to create something with visual, symbolic and spiritual depth. The stories of the objects I use are glued into the collage layers. Emotions, connections, poetry, unspoken words, events, songs, dreams and spiritual meaning are embedded in there too. Often the layering will only be apparent on a subtle level. What’s important to me is that I know the layers are underneath somewhere, giving the piece personal depth and intimacy.

When I am looking at one of my own art pieces or someone else’s, I tend to judge it based on first my emotional response, then on the craftsmanship of the execution and finally based on some intellectual understanding of the piece. Sometimes I want my work to be wild and spontaneous and passionate. Other times I’m aiming for an almost cool control, which in itself can convey an experience or an emotion as effectively as a more passionate piece. It’s hard to say what makes a piece of art “work” for me. It’s intuitive. Can I connect with something the artist was trying to say? Or does it leave me cold? Really, it’s such a personal thing … one viewer may respond positively to a piece that another person thinks is boring.

Digital painting with roots
Ghost Roots Tapestry

Here’s a little about my altered photograph (above.) The main image I used was of the lower trunk of a tree. When I first saw the tree, the roots looked like they were twining together in a Celtic knot shape. I have some background in fiberarts and weaving, and I thought of trying to bring out this aspect of the roots — that they were threaded and knotted together, not only around each other, but around the rocks and pebbles on the lake shore and down into the earth, around the leaves and soil and micro-organisms that live down there. I wanted to make something that looked like a tapestry, like threads and cords and knots, textural and subtle and fine.

I used Photoshop to alter the tree roots photo by blending it with a photo of the frozen lake surface and another, of branches against sky. When I am doing this work, I choose photos based on their dominant shapes, lines and textures. For example, to create the look of a tapestry, I needed lots of texture, so I chose photos with lots of different line weights and shapes going on. The different textures of these three photos contribute to the feeling of woven cloth. Likewise, if I had been going for a minimalist feeling, I might have chosen only photos with simple shapes and few lines.After I played around with the colours and blended the three main photos, I rotated multiple copies of the image and blended many layers to make something like a tapestry with the appearance of depth and criss-crossing threads. I like that it’s not perfectly symmetrical … very much like my actual woven tapestries used to turn out.

I put together an album of images I used in the two pieces, Ghost Roots Tapestry and Woodland and Icon with Cross. You can see it here. I call this group of images, Dead of Winter.  Sometimes I come up with a title for a series that almost contradicts how I really feel about the subject of the series. Yet to me, it fits. I hope the title makes people stop and read it twice, to puzzle out why I might have chosen those words. winter sky with mullien candles

In this case, dead is the opposite of what I think winter is. Winter is very much alive — it is just sleeping; it is the Earth dreaming, growing secretly underground, holding the light of short winter days in her heart, in her belly, holding it in until everything is ready to leap out again, be born, and come back to the warmth and the air and the green. It is a time for meditation, concentration, inner-focus, silence and dreams and spiritual contemplation. With that in mind, I tried to bring out the subtle, quiet spirit of leafless trees, frozen water, and strong, connected roots.

Not all of the photos in this group are altered. In fact, some are just as they came out of my camera. But they all belong together because of the thread of winter-quiet

All images: © 2005 – 2008 Maureen Shaughnessy. All rights reserved