TALES FROM THE TRAILS
Some people just have vivid imaginations. Take artist Gisela Pferdekamper, for instance. She and her husband, Howald, live in a gorgeous log home on Collecting Canal Road in Loxahatchee Groves. Tucked away beside it, in a converted barn, Gisela spends many hours each day working on her art. These include paintings, sculptures, painted life-sized fiberglass horses and tagines, special cooking pots in which vegetables cook in their own natural juices. Whatever pops into her head — and what popped into her head recently were cars.
Gisela has been painting her whole life. Marrying art with horses, her other passion, was natural. In 1983, she and Howald brought 33 Hanoverian horses to their original South Florida home in White Fences, which Howald developed and promoted as a dressage center. They founded the Palm Beach Dressage Derby and bred Hanoverians. A disclaimer: I once owned a grandson of Garibaldi, their stallion, and have long been a great fan of Gisela’s art.
Like Gisela herself, her paintings and sculptures reflect her whimsical style and incorporate a sense of humor. Walking around her property, her humorous take on life becomes apparent: a sculpture of a peacock roosting on a tree stump. Giant fingers reaching up out of the ground as if cradling a tree. Many of her pieces include her trademark big, round horses doing things they wouldn’t normally consider. Which brings me back to the cars.
“I first got the idea this past May,” Gisela recalled. “I have a friend who works in a Mercedes dealership, and perhaps that’s where it started. As I was driving home one day, I happened to be behind a Mercedes and noticed the star-like logo on the trunk. For some reason, I started thinking about how cars’ engines are calibrated in units called horse power. Then I started thinking about literal horse power, and how funny it would be to see a horse interacting with the logo, coming out if it. Slick, shiny horses, sort of like cars. Literal horse power.”
Gisela started work right away, and before too long she embarked on a whole series of “Horse Power” paintings incorporating the logos of different autos. In addition to the original Mercedes, there are canvases depicting horses interacting with the logos of a Ferrari, BMW, Lamborghini, VW, Cadillac, Porsche, Audi, Alpha-Romeo, Corvette, Bentley, Ford Mustang (a natural), and my favorite, Jaguar. In that canvas, the horses port jaguar spots and long cat tails.
“I do some research on the cars to get the colors right,” Gisela said. “If the cars feature a special color, I make the horses that color. The Ferrari has a special red that’s their main color, and I copied it exactly. The Jaguars have a special green. I used it for the background.”
You can view Gisela’s Horse Power paintings at www.artbygisela.com. Individual prints are available, and you can buy a 2018 calendar featuring all 12.
Gisela doesn’t make sketches of her paintings. The form of the painting is already fully fashioned in her mind by the time she begins each painting.
“I see it already finished in my head. Sometimes I start with the auto’s logo, which has to be interesting,” she said. “Then I figure out how to integrate the horses into it. I really liked the Bentley logo, with its wings, so I placed it in the middle of the horses, to make them look like they have wings, like Pegasus.”
Most of the time, she starts with the horses and tries to find a way to fit in the logo.
“For the BMW, I hung the logo around the horse’s neck like a pendant. The red Ferrari horses got the logo branded on their flanks,” Gisela said. “I also try to relate the horses to the types of cars. For example, Bentleys and VWs aren’t particularly fast cars, not race cars like some of the others. So I made the horses more compact and sturdy.”
The horses are all in motion, but none of them has a mane. “Cars don’t have manes. And horses’ necks are so elegant. Why put a mane on them and cover it up?” she said.
Gisela hopes that prints of her paintings and the calendar will make unique holiday gifts.
“A lot of people love horses, and a lot of people love their cars,” she said. “This is an unusual way to meld both of those loves together. I hope people will want to collect the whole series. They’re really something special.”
Gisela spends about four hours a day painting. She is able to complete two canvases a month this way. In between sessions, she reads novels and histories, and tends gardens to recharge. As for future Horse Power paintings? We’ll have to wait for inspiration to strike again.
Gisela’s studio is showcasing her works, along with those of selected other artists. You can call for an appointment now through Dec. 31. Stop by to view these enchanting works, and prepare to be amused and captivated. Oh, and there’s always a glass of wine!
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/gisela.pferdekamper. If you would like to find out more about the artwork, or are interested in having a special piece commissioned, contact Gisela at (561) 422-3037 or firstname.lastname@example.org.