Tuesday, December 23, 2014


I always have a piece of scrap metal close by when I’m chasing—it’s a doodle pad, a way to warm up my hand and mind, rehearse a line before I commit to a piece. As I messed around with my holly design, I was also testing my fine liner tool around the border of the metal and modifying the tiny tip, learning about what might make it glide over the surface in the same delightful way that the larger tool does. 

Doodling is always a lot of fun, and suddenly my holly-doodle had become the piece that I needed to obsess over for the next few days.

“Rob’s Holly”. Chasing and repoussé. Oxidised aluminium. Christine Pedersen. 2014.

All done. I feel like one of Santa’s elves: silence descends as I put down my chasing hammer and wander bleary-eyed from the workshop. It’s time to yield to the season, make some cookies, fill the log basket, and crack open a bottle… 

Wishing you a wonderful 2015. 
May your days be bright.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

pioneer spirits

We might still ride horses to round up the cows, but running wild, feral horses are just a competitor for grass and water. 

Surveil. Chased, repousséd, and oxidized aluminium panel in alder frame. 2014.

Alberta has an estimated 880 feral horses (minimum, based on the annual count (1)), descended from animals brought in for mining and logging in the the early 1900’s, and turned loose when the operations folded. It isn’t surprising, therefore, that people are very attached to the horses as a symbol of the pioneer spirit.

Ironically, it seems that feral horses in the developed world are under threat, their need for a share of natural resources scrutinized precisely because we no longer use them to aid our own survival. 

Wild horses must constantly move to find grass and water to survive, and they inspire us because they survive. They need so little, even in such a harsh climate. We use other sources of energy to do our work now—because horses simply lack adequate horse-power. Out of fashion, they are transformed into a different kind of resource: feral horses can be captured and put to any use, or their lives ended. 

Next year’s feral foals are gestating: I am left asking just how inspired we are by our past, and what of their future? 

1. http://esrd.alberta.ca/lands-forests/land-management/feral-horses/feral-horse-faqs.aspx

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

in dreams

My equine hero is In Dreams, my foal is Looking Back: a young horse looking to an older, wiser horse, learning about life in the herd. Normal, real behaviour. I don’t know what horses dream of, but an image of youth, counter-pointed with the introspection or dreaming that comes with ageing seems highly metaphorical too.

In Dreams (L), Looking Back (R). Chased aluminium panels in alder frames.
11x11x2 ins and 9x9x2 ins. 2014.

Life in the herd—or the family, or the village… I find myself reflecting on my younger self, my life experiences, looking back from here. There is questioning, and curiosity: what if? Did I make the right decision? Maybe other species aren’t burdened by (or able to enjoy) this mental movie playback of their lives?

I wonder about the possibility of many realities: what if this life I’m leading, my consciousness here and now, is just one version of all the possible options? What if I made all the other versions of those decisions too, and they are all playing out, somewhere else... Including some of the decisions I wish were different - like having to sell my four-legged best friend because I was leaving home for university.

I always thought things would be different when I was the grown-up, making all the decisions. Life really seemed so much clearer looking forward than it does looking back.

These two pictures are part of my installation, "In Dreams", depicting horse behaviours, on show at the Alberta Craft Council in Edmonton, Alberta, until December 24, 2014.

Physics is a passion in my household. If you want to know more about actual, real-world thinking about many realities or the multiverse, I highly recommend spending some time with the excellent Sean Carroll:
http://discovermagazine.com/2011/oct/18-out-there-welcome-to-the-multiverse - easy read.
https://www.ted.com/talks/sean_carroll_distant_time_and_the_hint_of_a_multiverse - higher level but very entertaining talk.
http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2014/06/30/why-the-many-worlds-formulation-of-quantum-mechanics-is-probably-correct/ Sean Carroll on why it is OK to create an infinite number of universes.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


There is now only one breed of truly wild horse walking on our planet, Przewalski’s Horse, and the last wild specimens were seen in Mongolia in 1966.

Fight (For Survival). Chased oxidized aluminum panel in alder frame. 11x9x2 ins. 2014.

Fight (For Survival) shows a typical Przewalski-like horse on the right, fighting with a horse showing a much more domesticated profile (left). This was the battle experienced by the dominant male in “Wild Horses Return To China” (1) when the herd of newly-released Przewalski’s met up with the inquisitive (and hungry) domesticated horses brought into the release station territory by nomadic herdsmen. 

Captive breeding programs have provided horses for re-introduction into the ancestral ranges in Mongolia and western China. Since the first releases in 1990, Mongolia has built up a herd of 115 ’takhi’ (the local name for the horses), with 76 born into the wild preserves set aside for them to roam. Listening to the research scientists (2), it appears that the first rule of this fight is that we need to talk… To consider the problem of habitat loss that is occurring even as captive breeding continues; compare this to the value of protecting native environments as a priority. After all, if we don’t, will we ever have anywhere to release animals back into?

(1) http://youtu.be/Cg2tVKvKp1A Pure Nature Specials Wild Horses Return To China.
(2) http://youtu.be/4tMFyL5PRr0 Science Bulletins: The Last Wild Horse—The Return of Takhi to Mongolia, American Museum Of Natural History.

This picture is one of a 17-piece installation, "In Dreams", depicting horse behaviours, on show at the Alberta Craft Council in Edmonton, Alberta, until December 24, 2014.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

the longest walk

Whilst researching horses for the In Dreams installation I got to indulge in something I don’t usually have time to do: I spent hours on YouTube. I allowed myself to look into people-horse culture on the web, and catch up with some important stories, like a 2012 documentary (1) on the release back into the wild of endangered Przewalski’s Horse (2).

The Longest Walk, a constant search for food and water. Chased aluminium panel in alder frame. 2014.

The small herd has a huge battle ahead, not least as they meet up with the domesticated horses of nomadic herdsmen, competing for the same grazing territory, and are forced away from the support of food and water at the release station. The Longest Walk is about migration: the constant search for resources, and space for life in the herd.

As some commenters noted, watching this documentary was like looking at real-life cave paintings… Images of Przewalski-type horses are part of the 17,000+ year old cave paintings at Lascaux (3), and oldest yet discovered images—the 32,000 year old paintings in Chauvet Cave (4)—in mainland Europe, in France. In modern times, the Przewalski’s horse is considered indigenous only to the Asian Steppe; intriguingly, fossil remains in France show that animals depicted in the caves also lived in the region at around the same time.

I designed and grouped the initial pieces that make up the In Dreams installation based on four key themes: Move (equine paces); Challenge (their fight and flight responses); Flight (jumping); and Family - their relationships within the herd. More to come on all of these.

(1) Pure Nature Specials: Wild Horses Return To China, http://youtu.be/Cg2tVKvKp1A
(2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Przewalski%27s_horse
(3) Stunning web-site, a visit to the Lascaux Caves, in French: http://www.lascaux.culture.fr/?lng=en#/fr/00.xml, English:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lascaux
(4) “Cave Of Forgotten Dreams”, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1664894/ or http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/cave_of_forgotten_dreams/

Thursday, October 16, 2014

meet the herd

The Alberta Craft Council has posted the on-line exhibition for the “Well In Hand” show of human/equine-inspired art.

In Dreams. Installation of chased and repousséd aluminium panels, in hand-made alder frames.
Largest pictures are 11" x 11" x 2". Christine Pedersen. 2014.

I knew that my pieces for the Well In Hand show would focus on the horse, because it was inspired by the snapshots already in my mind, from my life of being around them: grounded as an observer, connected as a rider. I put myself in charge of their welfare, made myself the herd leader. But I am not the same kind of animal.

I have always been concerned about the fundamental needs of all animals and how they are apparently yielded, or reined in by us through domestication. Horses particularly must forego their natural, genetic, behaviours to accept our leadership. For all animals, it boils down to the “four F’s”, the drivers, or hormonally-regulated mind states, (1) of evolutionary biology: feed, fight, flight, and fornicate. And I ventured a fifth dimension to explore—family: their life in the herd.

Our horses rely on us—an exchange of their companionship and labour for our care. So it seems that our job, as herd leaders, is to meet these needs fully. And to continue to question whether all that we ask is reasonable.

I will continue to explore the key themes in my installation, In Dreams, in future posts.

(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Fs_(evolution)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

love at first sight

I'm sure it happens all the time to other artists, but this was my first time: I had that instant feeling of "I have to make work for this show". 

So I dropped everything, and chased horses.

I had a blissful summer, working away in the basement, and the result is “In Dreams”, a 17-piece installation now on show in the Alberta Craft Council's “Well In Hand” exhibition. This is a multi-artist show in the large, downstairs Feature Gallery space, and there is a really exciting range of scales and themes in the work. Life-sized figurative sculpture, jewellery, artwork for the walls and home, and conceptually-based work: it is clear from the artist's statements that the welfare and protection of the horse in society is on everyone's mind. Very gratifying that we are all, first and foremost, horse-lovers.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

chasing horses...

This is the first post about a new body of work to go on show at the Alberta Craft Council, for their "Well In Hand" exhibition. Exhibition opens October 4, 2014, in Edmonton.

"Back To Earth". Oxidized aluminium panel floating in alder wood frame.
Chasing and repoussé. 11" x 11" x 2". 2014.

Creating work about horses feels like love: it makes me feel immediately joyful, young. I re-live the push of a soft warm nose against my hand, and I cannot help but smile.

I was put on a pony not long after I figured out walking. By age 4, I would find a halter and wander down to the field to see if I could catch one - preferably the small skewbald because I could get onto him from a 5-gallon drum. All I wanted to do was be with them, and ride. At night I dreamt about riding some more. According to the town (Fowey) librarian, around age 11 I had finally borrowed every horse book—I nearly cried when she said that, surely there had to be more?

People sometimes ask “what is it with girls and horses?” No idea. Besides, the genders even out when you look at national equestrian teams, so maybe I should ask “what is it with people and horses?” because we’ve been in love with them for a very long time. I do know what they mean to me: profound no-questions-asked friendship, always up for adventure, inquisitive, smart, caring—they feel very deeply, if we care to notice, and share. I lost just being me when I was on a horse because together we made a different kind of creature. And we could fly.