Two sculptures based on children's rocking horses.

Commissioned by The 418 Project (a Santa Cruz performance venue) for their Pony Brigade benefit art auction. In private collections.

A sculptural exploration of modes of defensiveness, and their futility. Influenced by a certain fetishistic approach toward materials and hardware.


I most often begin an artwork with an image rather than an idea. When a compelling image arises I usually accept it on its own terms rather than trying to force it to justify itself rationally. The closest thing to an "idea" that I had when I conceived these ponies was that I was making a joke–I thought it was very funny to take something that is supposed to be ridden by children and make it emphatically unrideable–or inaccessible. And I chose the name "Protection", because the ponies appear to be protecting themselves. But these are only the first thoughts on the matter. Once I have worked with an image for a while, it can be entertaining to subject it to some analysis. In the case of these ponies, a casual inquiry led to some interesting insights.

The images of these ponies can be interpreted as representations of two defensive modes typical of humans and other living creatures. In one, a hostile exterior aspect is presented so that attackers (or those perceived as such) will be harmed if they approach–-as in the porcupine, blowfish, or cactus. In another, an impenetrable armoring is established in which the subject is securely protected (or trapped), in the manner of a threatened turtle or armadillo; or perhaps a seed inside its tough hull waiting to germinate.

One pony is relatively technologically advanced, protecting itself with a coat of tough polyurethane caulk, studded with manufactured steel nails plated with zinc for rust resistance. The other uses more archaic technologies; a coarse fabric saturated with tar. Many of the materials used here are roofing supplies–which have an interesting association to the theme of protection. The nails are actually roofing nails–chosen because their large heads stick well into the caulk.

Interestingly, in both examples presented here (viewed anthropomorphically) the sensory organs are blocked–-making it impossible for the defensive subject to ascertain whether there actually is a threat. This would seem to call into question whether the defensive manuever was really necessary. What happens when one "defends" oneself from a threat that cannot be seen or understood?

The ponies also present a visible manifestation of obsessive thought processes and compulsive behavior patterns–-two features of the "artist" without which these pieces could not have been made. It took an unreasonably long time to stick all those nails on, and I would not have done it unless I were in the grip of an obsession which compelled me to realize this imagery in tangible form.

Do any of these associations and musings show that this work "means" something? Well, I find that I can form a statement based on associations with the thoughts expressed above; a sketch of a psychological situation: When one is in a habit of defensiveness, the habit will reinforce itself with obsessive circularity. One aspect of this process is the induction of a solipsistic blindness which shields the subject from outside information; because some of this information could prove the defensive process unneccessary. One wonders if the habit itself could be viewed as an entity fighting for its own survival.

Perhaps I am reading too much into my own work! But in any case-- does it serve any function to "say" such a thing?

The rational mind does like to ask questions. One wonders why an artist would wish to portray something so dark and usettling, without having a preconceived motive. Is it a glorification of disease? Is it a demonstration and reiteration of an unhealthy pattern? Would a psychiatrist consider the artist's habit of ungainfully working with obscure symbolic imagery a symptom of illness? Would he recommend medication, to keep the bad feelings away?

Or would the good doctor see in the work a healthy bringing forward of the repressed--a move toward wholeness? Would he support the artist in his explorations, in the hope that work in dark mythic language can help liberate the soul? Would he consider the work heroic on a cultural scale, because it brings to light what the society represses, shows the people things that lurk unseen in their psyches, helps the citizenry meet and accept their own demons, instead of fighting them in the basement of their unconciousness?

Well, I am unlikely to either receive a psychiatric diagnosis or achieve the status of a cultural hero, by the act of turning a couple of plastic ponies into sculpture. But it is interesting to think on these things. It is also interesting to me that these particular pieces, a realization of a dark vision, were very popular in the mellow town of Santa Cruz, where they were displayed publicly for a month, and auctioned off at a good price.

Which makes the artist wonder; what was the public thinking?
A brief essay about the ponies | Protection home | HOME