Ostrander - The Heaven for Cowboys Kind to their Horses

Rachel Ostrander

The Heaven for Cowboys Kind to their Horses

My art centers around cowboys and their associated themes, influenced by Western films and literature. Westerns offer me a sense of comfort and nostalgia in their straightforwardness. Their intense focus on masculinity, often sidelining femininity, initially attracted me because I identified as male and held some misguided views about women because hating the things that made me feel feminine was easier than being self-reflective.

 In my artwork, I aim to capture a sense of motion, using vibrant colors, horses, and, more recently, flowers. The emphasis on action is inspired by old movies and posters. Horses are especially important to me. While they're a staple in Western stories, it's often seen as feminine to appreciate them purely for their own sake, which I absolutely do, and have since I was a child. This is why I give them extra attention. The inclusion of these various elements is a way for me to blend the traditionally tough elements of Westerns with more feminine qualities that I personally connect with, aspects that are often denied to typical Western heroes and were also once suppressed within myself.

This interest was sparked by my unique experiences with gender identity, as a way to express those feelings. Recently, I've become more aware of this focus, and I've been working to interpret these experiences in a critical light, questioning the common elements of the genre. 

I prefer to work with paint. My creative process involves sketching, physical collage, and digital collage, all of which happen before and during the final piece's creation. Craft paper is a key element in my collages, helping me decide on colors and create a sense of movement in the background. The digital phase is where I plan out the main figures or focal points.

The Heaven for Cowboys Kind to their Horses (2023) depicts the resolution of loss and relates it to the experiences of personally reflecting and changing. There is a sense of tranquility and dreaminess created by the colours and imagery. The environment was composed through a combination of physical and digital collages. Its subject matter is in part, inspired by the film “The Last Unicorn” from 1982, which has related themes about loss and the sacrifice that comes from character evolution and change.