Sea horses… ride the waves into deep waters. Pulling chariots or dancing in sea foam, these horses have captivated our imaginations for thousands of years. One of the earliest Grecian relics was a seahorse. Hippo is Greek for “horse” and kampos means “sea monster”, and its the name I use for these majestic beasts.
Hippocampus was first seen at Burning Man in 2002 and was a thematic piece for that year. It was my 3rd sculpture to put on the Playa. It also was put on display at Google HQ in Mt. View for a few years, at Burning Man Headquarters on 3rd street for a few years, and at Russian River Winery for a few years. This sea horse has been to quite a few festivals as well, including Treasure Island Music Festival, Decompression, and more.
So you heard about how I got inspired to make sculpture. I jumped right in with this one, the first in my horse series. (I made one other smaller sculpture first, a rabbit). Yup, just jumped right in, it had to be big-ish. I say -ish as its big by any standards except at Burning Man. This is teeny tiny art for there.
In the story, the young princess is traveling to her prince’s castle where she is to be wed, carrying a handkerchief for protection with three drops of her mother’s blood, riding her magical horse Falada, who can talk. Along the way, her handmaiden watches the handkerchief fall from her bosom and float downstream, and immediately orders her to exchange outfits, so she arrives as the princess. Without protection and with her life threatened by the handmaiden, the princess, aghast, does as she is commanded. When they arrive at the castle, the “princess” orders the talking horse executed immediately for being such a nasty beast. She discards the princess to the lowest position, to tend the geese. The goose girl begs the butcher to hang her horse’s head above the garden gate so she can see it.
Each day as she passes under the horse’s head with her flock of geese, they whisper to each other “if only your mother knew, how her heart would break in two” is what the horse whispered back. Each day this strange behavior is witnessed by the goose boy. He is obsessed with her but whenever he gets too close, she whispers to the wind to blow his hat away. A couple weeks of this crazy nonsense, the goose boy takes his complaints straight to the king – this new goose girl is nutters and needs to be removed at once. The goose boy explains some of the strange things that have been happening.
The king summons the goose girl, and asks her to tell her story. Because she is under oath, she cannot. So he tells her to go tell it to the old black stove downstairs just to get it off her chest. So she tells her story to the stove, all the while the king is upstairs listening at the stove pipe. He learns of her true identity!
He has her bathed and clothed in the finest robes, and invites her to the dining table that night. At this table, the king asks the “princess-handmaiden” what should be done with a servant that turns against their lord and lady. She says such a servant should be stripped naked and placed in a barrel full of spikes pointing inward, and dragged around town behind a horse. And so this was done to the handmaiden.
Pretty gruesome tale! Perhaps it resonates with you in some way? Fairytales often resonate with collective unconscious energy, the parts of so many of us who feel we must mask our true identity to survive… wishing we’d be recognized for being special, our true selves, being invited to the feast. It describes a healing journey many of us go on, seeking how to find a way to be who we really are. Or at least that is one layer I see at the moment. Perhaps it means something entirely different for you.
The doubly strange aspect is this scenario was featured in my dreams as a child, long before I remember reading of it in Grimm’s Fairytales. In a reference to my repetitive dreams, the horse’s head was nailed to a tree, which is represented by the bark on this trophy mount.