Street to Stable® first published the story of fine artist, Donna Bernstein, exactly one year ago. Her signature style features the energy of horses coupled with their gestural and anatomical accuracy. Ms. Bernstein works across multiple mediums, including sculpture, jewelry, scarves, and fashion, but she is best known for her large canvases. Although each canvas captures the ancient spirit of the horse, the pieces are often the focal points in exquisite contemporary homes.
Ms. Bernstein has traditionally reserved showing her pieces in galleries and their corresponding shows and exhibitions. This past April she enthusiastically navigated the logistics of shipping her large canvases and introduced several pieces directly to the international show jumping world at the inaugural Longines Masters of New York.
Below you will find a compilation of our interview from last year sharing Ms. Bernstein's artistic process and extensive background along with her recent impressions of attending her first international show jumping competition as both a spectator and featured exhibition.
NAME OF BUSINESS: Donna B Fine Art
ARTIST: Donna Bernstein
Please describe your expertise.
My expertise lies firstly in the fact that as a child I studied everything about the horse voraciously. I was smitten, but did not have horses.
I often think today I am painting the horses I never had. I studied their anatomy, ailments and cures; riding styles, the history and evolution of horses, their roles in art and culture; every book I could lay my hands on. When I was around a real horse I would watch, for as long as it took.
I never drew at the time I watched; I was afraid in the moment I looked away to draw I would miss something. Now I think I was right. So I watched, every little move, flick of the ears, tremor in the shoulder as a fly was shaken away. When I got home I would draw, endlessly, my book study of anatomy blending profusely with my memory of the horse I had watched.
They became infused with my imagination. I drew horses, correctly, yet stylistically, as how I felt when I was with them. These are the elements that informed my art, and has created and defined my signature style. Gestural and anatomical accuracy, blended with an awed sense of the equine personality. Although there is always some learned technique, using those skills in fresh and dynamic ways begins something new.
What makes your process unique?
All of the above makes my art unique in that my interest is not in recreating a picture of a horse. Rather, there is an intuitive mythology to a horse, a symbolism; an ancient connection we can trace. I believe that no matter how our culture moves beyond the speed of the horse, his true horsepower lies in his ability to inspire.
Horses are big energy…and that is what I paint. Large-scale, lyrical, sensual, passionate; horses are evocative both of power and pleasure. The form of my art, as the horses are often running off the canvas, creates a unique intimacy. Often my horses have just three legs showing on the canvas; this is because having studied as I have when you see a horse you don’t always see all the legs at once; he is moving too fast.
Even though the piece may be expressive or abstract, there is always an anatomical correctness and balance to it. It is the way horses move. Their great strength, as they willingly support us. It’s a precious quality to honor. They transparently and with ease express universal personalities and qualities we all recognize. I see my work as a modern take on their classical, ancient qualities and mysteries.
You are very familiar with equestrian sport through the highest echelon of the horse racing events including your involvement with an all female racing syndicate out of New York. What did you find unique attending your first international show jumping event, the Longines Masters in New York?
What was so special about the Longines event was actually everything - such a hugely international group of riders; an international staff team for the event, from all over the world; the elegance of the Longines persona and reputation, and the level of professionalism throughout. I was thrilled to be exposed to it all, and have my art and equestrian fashion scarves be so well received.
The layout was such that the warm-up area was right near the Prestige Village, and watching the horses and riders prep for their events was a constant source of hi-level entertainment!
As a fine artist, your work is typically shown at gallery events. Did you find more interest interacting with potential clients that are already equestrian enthusiasts?
I did, but I also love the one-on-one contact with potential collectors and fans. I am not an artist who shies away into the studio all the time, though I love my studio time when it is time to work. Then I love getting out, being social, being at a live, full-of-energy event, and talk to people about my art. I learn so much from their point of view, and I appreciate their insights and experiences with my work.
When someone comes along and is so taken with a piece that they must have it, or it moves them to tears, you know your work is important, and that is a joyful feeling not duplicated anywhere else.
Can we expect to see your work at any additional show jumping events in the future?
I am hoping to potentially show again with Longines in another venue - definitely in the works!
What inspires you to create new designs, try different techniques, and/or create different pieces?
I think a sense of adventure. Painting my art with horses is my journey, my ride; I like to include an element of surprise, whether it is an expression, and unusual color, or action of a horse. Some of my pieces require that I work with the canvas on the floor, and throw the ink into place.
Having drawn horses for over fifty years I know how they move, and where their legs and body go. But it is a precise and challenging style I created, allowing for no mistakes, somewhat akin to calligraphy and asian art. I need to see the composition in my mind’s eye, as when I was young and memorized their moves, before I can begin the piece.
I just like staying fresh in my work, being innovative, rather than derivative. Creating something I have not seen before. I believe the amazingly transformative energy of the horse gives me a push in that direction.
Any other information you would like to share with the Street to Stable community about your craft?
That it is ever evolving, ever challenging, and deeply fulfilling. Especially when others love, appreciate and draw pleasure and delight from my work.
Collector comments are inspiring to me. My art is communication, and I love when I connect with like-minded souls, who read what I’ve written in my art, even if they may interpret it differently. What the viewer/collector brings to the art is a magical part of this process. I learn as much from my collectors as I do from the horse and the work itself. It is as if the horse is able to take me places I would never have been able to go by myself.
And isn’t that always the dream of the horse? What he has always provided us throughout history? The ability to go beyond ourselves, and expand.
Shop online for paintings, sculptures, jewelry, scarves and fashion at https://donnabernstein.com
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