The reflective coat, long bristling mane, and velvety nose of a horse invites connection. Fingers splay. Eyes lock, and the arm extends intentionally, carefully. Once, then twice.
“The first thing people do is touch them, make contact,” offers Mindy Wiener, who is coordinating the Art of the Horse, a yearlong public art project and marketing campaign designed to promote tourism and foster connectivity between the foothills towns of Landrum, South Carolina, and Saluda, Columbus, and Tryon, North Carolina.
For the past year, Wiener has headed up the Art of the Horse on behalf of Our Carolina Foothills, a nonprofit joint- marketing venture that promotes “Four Towns, Two States, One Great experience” in Polk County’s foothills and the Upstate. They all share an equestrian heritage as a place for riding, raising, and trading horses.
Modern-day Tryon International Equestrian Center has become an international hub for many of the world’s top equestrian athletes. It offers riding facilities, as well as places to spectate, dine, shop, and share a love of horses. The events hosted at the equestrian center are supported by hospitality and tourism offerings in all the neighboring foothills towns.
Horse of a Different Color // Christine Mariotti is one of sixteen Tryon- area artists selected to create artwork for the Art of the Horse, a yearlong project from Our Carolina Foothills, a nonprofit working to promote the four-town area of Landrum, SC, and Tryon, Saluda, and Columbus, NC. The finished fiberglass horses will be auctioned off at an event later this year, with part of the proceeds going to Our Carolina Foothills.
So, when it came time to consider ways to visually connect the four communities, Wiener looked to the innate connectivity of the horse. The project encompasses sixteen plain white, berglass horses that local artists have transformed into unique works of art to be displayed in the various communities. The nal step in the Art of the Horse will be auctioning the art pieces off in a unique fundraiser, public art, and marketing campaign.
The first of the horses were just unveiled in April, and more will be revealed this month. But the 16 berglass gures, each 16 hands tall—life-size by any measure—have been coming to life inside the studios of regional artists and artisans since last year.
Career artist and art educator Christine Mariotti, who came to Tryon from Long Beach, California, has been studying Chinese brushstroke painting for ten years. She is now composing two horses for the Art of the Horse: one commissioned by a local business and the other inspired by her ever-evolving interest in Eastern art.
While some horses are reflective of the area’s geography or have ties to causes such as “Save the Bees” (think a bumblebee-themed horse), others are simply art for the sake of art, including a linear piece by a Greenville-based Iranian artist entitled Night and Day, which uses the clean white berglass as a canvas for line and boundary shapes.
Mariotti’s horse, inspired by Chinese pottery, is layered in texture, color, and history—from a hand-painted crackle to sculpted, three-dimensional medallions, and saddle adornments designed to mimic the glazes and formality of early Chinese sculpture. The work has taken hours of study, preparation, and execution, so the end result will be a striking, irresistibly touchable creation.