The Metaphorical Power Seat

Posted on November 3rd, by S. Bartron-Miscione in Blog. 18 comments

Taming Wild, Update of a Work in Progress

For a young South Dakota girl growing up on the prairie, the saddle represented: freedom, independence, adventure, control, thrilling speed. Pretty heady stuff imprinted on the mind and heart of a little girl – and somewhere in my lizard brain, it’s still there!

This beautiful hand tooled saddle is more like a throne than any riding accouterment that I had; it embellishes the memories of those emotional connections. It also made the last two years of interpretive work continuously compelling for me: interpreting the botanical motifs of the leather carver, myriad layers of leather color and highlights, and the visual interpretation of metaphors.

Every minute of painting this Objet D’art was in honor of the horses I loved, the best part of my childhood on the prairie, and what I learned about personal power from that young girl.

During September and October walks through Maine’s autumnal foliage ablaze with color, it was clear to me that the six hues of the saddle seat are exactly what I’m surrounded by: purple, red, orange, yellow, pink, magenta, and their machinations in tints and shades. The seat has a remarkable depth of color due to its terms of use; prolonged gentle rubbing. The leather is gleaming with all six colors changing dominance as the light coming through my studio windows changes position throughout the day — and at times instantaneously — as clouds pass by. A cloud can eliminate the gold almost entirely and replace it with deep, melancholy purple! Just as suddenly, any of the other colors can appear with more presence than otherwise acknowledged. I have layered my palette of colors to mimic a version of that reality, by making the painted color appear to change when seen from different angles. My goal is, “living color,” as lively and luscious as what I’m looking at on the saddle hanging in front of me, and on wet leaves in late afternoon sun after dense fog or rain.

I expect to finish this painting and have it framed by Spring 2018.

18 thoughts on “The Metaphorical Power Seat

  1. Hi there-beautiful painting. I have been thinking of you and left with Ashley another special rendering of our childhood for Nick to pick up at Thanksgiving to give to you.

    Love you, Greg

  2. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! And I knew that young girl on the prairie who is now an accomplished artist among other wonderful things.
    Love from another Prairie girl,

  3. Wow! It is as spectacular as I expected. Loved your talk today at Art Matters. A privilege to know you, and live in a place so rich with world class artists. I can’t wait to see the finished piece.

  4. Stevie, riding side-by-side with you those So.Dak. summers are some of my most treasured memories.
    How wonderfully you captured in prose those important learning and living times. But what you captured in art even exceeds. An amazing piece; elevating necessary equipment to a thing of beauty. It is hard to comprehend the nuances. I am awed. Thank you. LLLL

  5. YES LLLL, you were there during such formative years, right beside me, flying on horseback over SD prairie❣️ When we graduated to cars you already had a serious need-for-speed that exceeded anyone’s ability to catch up. I’m gratified that you responded to the saddle painting with emotional connections to that wonderful, long ago time we were fortunate to share. Thank you forever. Stevie

  6. A work of art that is as inspiring as the lady herself. A pleasure to see the life of the saddle spring from the canvas as you recreate its inner beauty.

  7. The design and beautification of the interface between humans and fauna and flora, or landscape, or the sea are spectacular subjects for perceptive painters: bouquets, gardens, architecture, boats, highways, bridges….and now saddles. Your thoughtful explanation is poetic and highlights the gifts of the object to functionality and to the human spirit. Simply inspired, Stephanie! Lovely!

  8. A saddle is the perfect subject for a painting, particularly one this gorgeous. I totally identify with all the emotional connections evoked by a saddle. During my two years in South Dakota on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation, I kept a horse grazing out back and would ride across the high plains, down along the creeks and up on the grassy mesas. Since leaving the Res in 1972, I made several halfhearted attempts to sell my saddle, but I just couldn’t quite bring myself to do it. It still sits on a sawhorse in the shed and reminds me of those days when it sat on a real horse. It was my ticket to adventure flying across the wide-open spaces.

  9. Stevie, your prose around the saddle description and your love of the piece are a treasure and inspiration to read. – the fact that you are truly a PART of the saddle has come out in your exquisite representation of the object. I never could have imagined another loving that saddle as I did… You have exceeded in that feeling !! I keep repeating myself… totally masterful.
    Much love to you xo

  10. Stephanie, that is truly spectacular. Like I said when I first saw it, I love the way you evoke a skeleton (especially around the horn of saddle) and remind the viewer of the bond between an old, beautifully crafted saddle and the human who rides it. The details of the rope and the reigns (are those reins?) hanging off the back are so sensual–they remind me that a saddle is also an instrument of work. (I’ve had the same observation about all the things that Herbie uses clamming–the handmade clam hods and the mud sleds and the dories he’s designed and built–they all have their beauty and reflect his connection with the ocean and the living he makes there.) And then the working of the leather. Wow. It’s a garden–like Eden! Such care people took in designing essentially utilitarian objects.

    And who is the lucky owner of this? It must be hard to let it go after you’ve worked on it so long and painstakingly. Or does it feel liberating to send it off, like clearing a space for the next creation?

    Thanks for sending this–lovely way to start my morning!


    • Katy,

      The leather ties, ( I’m calling them cargo ties), are the way gear is securely tied to the saddle structure. They fade from painted color to pencil. I did that to say visually, that the utilitarianism of saddles has faded away: been replaced, there is nothing to tie us to horses now. For this Dakota Prairie Rider, a saddle is the quintessential symbol of a lost American Cultural History of the West.

      I intended the ties to serve as strong vertical lines – all pointing to the seat, but when everything else was finished the composition needed more visual weight off the back, so those four long ties became more important than I had originally intended! I decided to coil them for some mass – which also implies a ground – and repeat the sensual, nouveau look of how they’re hanging to be consistent with the botanical elements. I like the way that worked – and I’m delighted that you did too – but it was unnerving to be problem-solving like that – right up to the last 2 days.

      How wonderful for Herbie that you have such appreciation for the many beautiful things that he’s made by hand over the years of fishing. They hold visual stories of love and toil from those who work at sea.

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