Artist: Helen Werner Cox
Exhibition: Silent Screams
Media: Pastel on prints
Gallery: Gatov Gallery West
Helen Werner Cox is a graduate student here at Cal State Long Beach, and was in the School of Arts’ Drawing and Painting program. She is originally from a small farm town outside of Ithica, New York. Throughout her life she has been a teacher at a high school in Boston for thirty years, and moved on to work with middle school teens in Long Beach for 17 years. She said that her favorite place to live was Boston, but loves the weather here in Long Beach. Some of her hobbies include gardening, reading fiction and mystery books, solving puzzles, and other strategy games. She has always loved nature and the outdoors, which compelled her to draw organic characters. Her work explores chaos and power, which is perfectly exemplified by her theme of horses.
All of her work consists of large portraits of either horses, or carousels with horses on them. She uses oil and pastel on prints, and does wood carving and pastel mono prints to add detail and texture. Most of the materials she uses are water based, which allows her to get the organic feel she is going for. Her initial idea was to paint a merry-go-round with people on it, but over time she grew more and more fascinated with the horses on a carousel. As a little girl, she recalls being in love with carousels, and even remembers being mesmerized by the first one she saw in Santa Monica. Most of her time is spent at the Griffith Park carousel in Los Angeles, which gives her more inspiration for her paintings. Besides the fact that she is drawing living creatures, she brings her paintings to life even more with her use of organic lines and and lively bright colors. The pastels she uses on top of the oil paint allows for a cartoon look to her work, and there is so much coloration that it makes it pop out of the frame. All of the paintings are relatively big, about 4 feet wide and 6 feet tall (give or take a few feet), but none too big to fit in a gallery.
The artist herself stated that she wants her artwork to look powerful, while still portraying the idea of chaos. The insertion of horses or carousels into all of her work is a result of her attempts to promote chaos and power. Horses are powerful animals, and have always been used as an archetype for strength and power, but they are also chaotic animals. They kick, jump, buck, and roam around freely, often at the expense of the human in which they are most close to. Helen even said that as a child she was never into horses, so that further provides evidence that she draws the characters to
exemplify chaotic power. There is a tad bit of nostalgia involved with her creations, what with her infatuation with carousels as a child. She finds carousels calming, and it helps her relieve anxiety and stress. Her artwork is another way for her to channel her anxiety and fear, for as a child she had a bad experience with a horse which caused her to fear them the rest of her life. Her art is an expression of her fears, her past, and her interests.
I sympathize with the artist in the sense that I have always been afraid of horses, and have always had a love for carousels. Almost every kid loves carousels, and I think she is trying to make viewers have feelings of nostalgia whilst viewing her work. My bad experience with horses came when I was about nine years old and visiting some friends up in the hills of the Altamount. They own a ranch up in the hills, with tons of land, so they also owned horses to travel around on. I was trying to ride one when, all of a sudden, it got spooked and bolted off running. Since I had no experience with horses I didn’t know how to calm down or slow down the horse and ended up just falling off of it. Since then, I have always viewed horses as chaotic beings with tremendous amounts of power. I understand why she chose these creatures in order to exemplify chaos and power.