Title: There’s a Red Horse Over Yonder
Material: Oil on canvas
Size: 34×24 (8×6 hands)
The horse is too small, the jockey too big, the trainer too old, and I’m too dumb to know the difference. – Charles Howard (Seabiscuit’s owner)
Seabiscuit’s job was to (literally) run for his life. In his first 100 races, the racehorse never once finished in the money, and he was headed for the proverbial (or actual) glue factory in a (metaphorical) handbasket until he came under proper management and training. Stubborn, little, gnarly and eccentric, he was a most unlikely racehorse to one day be setting long-standing track records.
Seabiscuit was particular. He always insisted on bedding down at night with his pets: a goat, a dog and a duck. I started doing likewise, and my life has improved immeasurably, as long as Ducky remembers his C-pap machine.
In this painting, I bend earth and sky in the background into a horseshoe halo to show the strange, inside-out world that domesticated animals live in. Things turn all checker-boardy, to suggest racing silks and other garish racetrack garnishes.
By dressing the animal something like a Mexican wrestler, with his trademark branded hood, I make a crack about Seabiscuit’s early career, racing in Tijuana. But I am also speaking of animal domestication. We own them, we dress them as we please, we make of them tools and playthings and billboards, but they can teach us how to love. They’re good at that.
Seabiscuit’s cocky gaze I caught in a horse’s eyes in the paddock of Hong Kong’s Happy Valley racetrack. The horse told me he wanted to run and was going to win, and he did, and I earned some money through this interspecies clairvoyance. Afterward, he and I went to Wanchai to drink beer and watch the fillies walk by. He drank me under the stable. Hay, we’re only human!