Horses lend themselves to art in a thousand different ways. Their musculature, glossy coats, movements, and facial expressions have graced canvases and walls for millennia. Dr. Patricia Frederick is an equine veterinarian and sculptor who celebrates the equine form in steel.
Tango by Dr. Patricia Frederick
With her love of horses leading to the pursuit of a veterinary degree, Dr. Frederick graduated from Washington State University’s vet school in 1966. During her decades as an equine practitioner, Dr. Frederick became certified in chiropractic medicine, holistic veterinary medicine, and acupuncture.
Dr. Frederick started first working with clay in the 1980s and spent time perfecting ceramic sculptures while pursuing an associate degree in painting. In the early 1990s, she received private tutoring in bronze sculpture.
“As I learned how much welding the bronzes required, I took a welding class and was hooked,” she says. Dr. Frederick found that steel was more available than bronze, as well as cheaper, and this became her favorite art form.
Dr. Frederick is now retired from veterinary practice and spends her time working on steel sculptures, primarily of horses. She has over one hundred pieces to her name, with projects featured in galleries in her home state of Arizona as well as internationally.
Many of Dr. Frederick’s pieces feature the relationship between horse and human.
“Whenever anyone gets on a horse they are immediately on top of the world,” she says. “Not only are we above the rest but we are also imbued with a heroic feeling and have an energy under us which is thrilling and useful.”
This heroic feeling that Dr. Frederick describes is conceptualized in Horses Make Heroes, her series of sculptures that celebrate the impact and importance the horse has made throughout history as well as in present time.
Amigos by Dr. Patricia Frederick
“Of course, no one has to be on top of the horse to feel like the hero,” Dr. Frederick says. “Brushing, cleaning feet, and feeling a soft, hot breath on your neck is as magical as any time can be.”
Dr. Frederick says she completes about six pieces a year, but this is highly dependent on the size of the project. The largest project she as completed is called “Carousel of Life,” which consists of five horses. In total, this project is fifteen feet in diameter and consists of glass, steel, aluminum, copper, silver, bronze, cement and wood. It took Dr. Frederick almost a year to complete.
Dr. Frederick’s veterinary knowledge of anatomy has been helpful in building the basic structures of her sculptures. “The essence of the animal is basically the energy they are putting into a movement with the correct anatomy,” she says. “Once the posture and bones of the armature are in place, I stop being realistic. I have never wanted to capture a purely realistic look—just the essence—so that your own mind fills in the spaces that you don’t see without knowing it.”
Corowa Sheila by Dr. Patricia Frederick
While some of Dr. Frederick’s sculptures are abstract, others depict intimate, quiet moments where horse and rider are blissfully at peace with each other and the world. One such piece is called “Corowa Sheila.” This piece was inspired by a memory when Dr. Frederick lived in Australia. “I saw a young girl lying on her horse, obviously waiting for a friend,” she recalls. “The horse was appreciating the shade of a gum tree.”
Another piece called “Hope,” captures a memory of a horse show where she saw a horse standing in a small area enclosed by hot wire. “He was a big, lanky Thoroughbred and the girl who left him there had put a bucket just out of reach,” she says. “He was stretching with every sinew of his body to reach the bucket without stepping out of the enclosure.”
“Hope” by Dr. Patricia Frederick
As Dr. Frederick continues to make art, she is likely to never run out of inspiration and ideas from her decades of working with horses. She encourages others to also follow their creative aspirations. “Just do it,” she says. “Try to make time for your hobby. There are so many different forms of artistic expression—the world is your oyster.”
Anna O’Brien, DVM, is a large-animal ambulatory veterinarian in
central Maryland. Her practice tackles anything equine in nature, from
Miniature Horses to zebras at the local zoo with a few cows, goats,
sheep, pigs, llamas, and alpacas thrown in for good measure. Follow her on Twitter: @annaobriendvm.