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A lifelong love of horses and art
Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent

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Rich Fisher
Trenton, NJ --- When Brianna Fenn paints a horse, she knows a horse.

She’s not just drawing an animal from what it looks like but from what’s inside as well, as a result of her long-running relationship with Standardbreds that started as a child.

Fenn, who will be staging her first solo exhibit in Hopewell, N.J., in two weeks, has been around horses since childhood while growing up in London, Ontario. She owns several Standardbreds and holds a trainer’s license.

“I’ve bred horses and have probably been working with them for the last 10 to 15 years,” she said. “I don’t train anymore. I own a limited number of Standardbreds but I really want to focus on my painting now.”

That focus has paid off with Fenn’s show at the Morpeth Cotemporary Gallery in Hopewell. It will run March 16-31 with an opening reception from 5 to 8 p.m. on the 16th at which all are invited.

Photo courtesy of Brianna L. Fenn
Brianna Fenn has combined a lifelong love of horses and art.

“It’s all going to be Standardbreds, a black and white series, called The Horse,” Fenn explained. “I just hope to get my name out there as an equine artist. I want people to know I do commissions in any breed or disciplines.”

The exhibition should come as no surprise to anyone who knows Brianna. Ever since her youth, painting and horses have been her great passions. Combining the two only made sense.

“I’ve always loved horses since I was young and I’ve also loved art,” she said. “My dad was an artist and my mom’s very creative. I was always encouraged to draw, paint -- any kind of creative outlet. I took art through high school and just kind of learned the fundamentals of painting.

“I’ve always been attracted to contrast images, artists who do the black and whites like Ansel Adams, the Motherwells (Robert and Jeannie), just to start. I think there’s some simplicity in the black and white.”

But what to paint? That was the question. It was answered one day when Fenn sat in on an artist’s lecture.

“There was a point he made that I really picked up on,” she said. “He said if you want to be successful, make something you’re really passionate about. It always came back to the horse with me. Horses are probably the oldest subject matter to paint. My work moved from more abstract to core work into the horses, probably in the last four to five years.”

And she certainly knows horses to the core.

“I think working with horses day in and day out has given me the intimate knowledge of how a horse is put together, their distinguishing features,” Fenn said. “A lot of people look at a horse and think they all look the same, especially in Standardbreds. That’s not the case at all.”

Brianna Fenn will be staging her first solo exhibit in Hopewell, N.J.

And by breeding and training horses, it helps Fenn understand their personality, which in turn enables her to add a dimension to the paintings.

“Every horse is an individual so there’s no cookie cutter way of training them, so you have to kind of be open to what they need and to bring out the best in them,” Fenn said. “When I do commissions for people, I want to hear them say ‘Oh you nailed it, that’s my horse.’ And that’s usually the reaction I get.

“I want to focus on what makes them different as an individual and I want to do it the simplest way possible. I started using black; I was using very little white. I let the canvas do the positive work for me. From there I just kept paring down, (thinking) ‘I don’t need this line, I don’t really need this to achieve where I’m trying to go.’ That’s the evolution. From the color to the big oils I used to do, down to what my work looks like now. I went from abstract to realism.”

Fenn has no specific style, saying that sometimes she will use dry brush, other times a lot of oil.

“Whatever the painting needs to kind of capture the subject,” she said.

While the majority of works at her upcoming show -- which Brianna does off photos that she takes -- are horses that she has owned or currently owns, there is an exception with 2009 Hambletonian champion and Horse of the Year Muscle Hill. Fenn went to Southwind Farms and was granted permission to take photos to paint off of.

“He’s one of my favorite horses, I’m just a huge fan,” she said. “I’m a harness racing fan first and foremost, I love the sport even with all the changes, it’s why I wanted to paint Muscle Hill. They were great at Southwind Farms, they let me spend as much time as I wanted.

“He was a phenomenal racehorse and is getting positive reviews as a stallion. The same with (sire) Muscle Yankee. I would like to paint more of the horse stars in the industry. I think it’s phenomenal what they can do.”

If all goes well at her first show and her career begins to blossom, Fenn may just get her wish.

For a closer look at Brianna Fenn log on to www.briannalfenn.com.


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