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Discover Mid-America — July 2005

Metal sculptor captures spirit of favorite horses

Guinotte Wise with one of his horses at the Hilliard Gallery in Kansas City. (photo by Ken Weyand)

A car speeds along a road near Guinotte Wise’s ranch near New Lancaster, KS. It slows then stops, the driver contemplating a horse standing alone in an open pasture. Then the driver gets out, squints at the horse, and with a broad grin, gets back in his car and drives on. The horse never moves although it looks real. The horse is a steel sculpture made by Wise from an assemblage of old rusty tools, household appliances and various car parts.

Born in Kansas City, Wise has lived in many places and worked many jobs. After attending art school, advertising dominated his career. He is now VP and creative director at VML, an ad agency in Kansas City, MO. Wise has won many awards for outstanding advertising campaigns. But his avocation of metal sculpture lets him return to his rural roots.

Wise grew up around horses and considers them old friends. Turning to metal sculpture about two years ago, his most dramatic efforts are his horse sculptures — “ghosts of old horse friends,” he calls them.

“I’ve loved horses since I was a child in Tulsa, Oklahoma and have owned them half my life off and on,” Wise said. “I had four equine friends up to a few months ago but two passed away, one of old age (33) and the other of cancer complications plus age. So my herd — my reference — is half what it was.

“I’ve always been fascinated by how shapes occupy space and how certain shapes seem to pull your attention, while others remain unnoticed,” Wise continued. “There’s a sense of concentrated energy and tension in some pieces that, on the surface, seems very simple.”

Wise’s welded steel “assemblages” explore special relationships of various metal shapes, colors, tensions, etc., and the pieces often aren’t particularly representational.

“My formal art training has helped me be the instrument between the scrap pile and the welding machine,” he said. “I get to feeling pretty good about it until someone says, ‘Nice yard art’ or (when) my jeans catch on fire from the sparks.

“Sometimes, the metal just tells me what to do, and the process is quite exploratory and exciting. With the horses (and some colts I’m doing) the process is a bit different. I try to show some moment that they’re experiencing. The deal I made with myself is, they don’t have to be anatomically correct. But they must show some degree of ‘horseness’ and be ‘live’ to me.”

Wise has captured the “horseness” by having one of his sculptures depicting a horse rolling in the dust, “scratching his back like a dog.” Another shows the animal “with his ears back, annoyed, trying to dislodge a pesky horsefly.”

One of Wise’s horse sculptures and several other assemblages can be seen at Hilliard Gallery, 1004 Westport Rd., in Kansas City. Two of his horse sculptures can be seen through Oct. 31 at the Overland Park (KS) Arboretum and Botanical Gardens exhibition.

Wise’s wife, Freddie (also in advertising), is a metalsmith, making fine jewelry and serving as a rep for two commercial artists.

“Our house is a conglomeration of a very old farmhouse and a newer glass and stucco addition,” Wise said. “The barn was built in 1886, the house probably 1900. We’re collectors, so you might see anything in there, from a bumper car from Fairyland Park to a turn of the century art nouveau sculpture.”


Discover Mid-America founder and Senior Contributing Editor Ken Weyand files regular reports on notable Midwest destinations. He can be reached at kweyand@gbronline.com.


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