Equine Art for a good cause

By Nancy Jaffer
December 20, 2016

The enterprising artist juggles a lot of ventures, including wildly ambitious sculpting for charity, making carousels out of hobby horses, blogging and bringing together other artists at #equinearthour on Twitter.

There’s a lot more that Shya Beth is planning in terms of long-range projects, but she has time. Did I mention that she is only 15?

Shya Beth with a horse made out of greens. (Photo by Nancy Jaffer)

The Sussex County teen’s interest in horses and art began when she would ride her Shetland pony in a basket saddle before she could walk, then picked up a paintbrush afterwards to express herself.

Her inclination toward horses and art was inspired by her mother, Mary Beth, a stained glass artist and horsewoman who home-schools her daughter.

“She’s always done something creative. She can see something and turn it into her own and it comes out fresh,” Mary said. Whether it’s charities or promoting other artists, Shya “just wants to help. She takes everything to heart,” her mother observed.

“I’m thrilled she’s doing what she wants to do. I let her have free rein,” added Mary, who helps out when needed, such as driving Shya where she needs to go for her work.

Shya has been involved in a lot of projects, but she hit the headlines two years ago with Fleur, her creation of a jumping horse composed of wood, bamboo, Styrofoam and chicken wire, all covered with hundreds of handmade paper flowers over a frame that is  6 feet, 10 inches tall and eight feet, 10 inches wide.

A year ago, she came up with the idea of making 18 life-size horse sculptures, assembled on wooden frames, covered in denim from donated used blue jeans. She is putting together creations depicting a variety of breeds and disciplines; race horses, jumpers and polo ponies among them. The plan is to have them autographed by top riders and officials, then auction them after an exhibition. The money will go to equine charities—mustangs are a particular interest of Shya’s, as well as the working donkeys in Third World countries

Citing the abuse of horses around the world, she said, “I want to do as much as I can to help our equines.”

And that led to development of thebluejeanhorseprojectdotcom.wordpress.com

Shya notes, “I think using denim to create these sculptures is not only a unique medium, but also a way that everyone–equestrians or not– can feel connected to this project. Nearly everyone wears jeans, whether they are a pair of NYC designer jeans or a farmer’s old Levi’s. Everyone can feel a connection to this project, which will ultimately help more horses.”

A blue jean jumper. (Photo courtesy Shya Beth)

Blue jeans to be used in the project may be dropped off at Beval’s Saddlery in Gladstone, Horsemen’s Outlet in Lebanon and Tractor Supply in Blairstown. They can have rips and tears, but shouldn’t be too ratty, she cautioned.

Shya is creating several films about the sculptures that include the history of the sport and/or breed they represent interviews with the people who sign them.

Her current efforts involve horsehead wreaths made out of cedar and other evergreens she collects with her Halflinger on her Lafayette farm. Sale of the horse wreaths will benefit her Blue Jean project; she also makes Doberman wreaths, with proceeds going to a Doberman rescue. For information about the wreaths, go to mistybrookmeadows@gmail.com. Misty Brook Meadows is also on facebook. They aren’t just for Christmas—they’re nice decorations throughout the winter.

Shya Beth’s horsehead wreaths. (Photo by Nancy Jaffer)

Every Tuesday and Friday, Shya blogs at www.theflyingshetlands.wordpress.com, which is a showcase for equine art.

Artist Sue Ziegler (www.suezieglerart.com), who has painted champion race horse California Chrome and whose work is displayed at galleries in Versailles, Ky., and Saratoga Springs, N.Y., started following “The Flying Shetlands” more than a year ago.  She’s a fan of Shya.

“I was very impressed with the famous guests she interviewed on Equine Art Hour, and enjoyed learning more about the artists that were new to me.  What she has accomplished is especially impressive knowing how young she is.  After reading her Equine Art Hour interview about the Equus Film Festival, I entered their art contest and one of my works was chosen as a tour stop image for the festival.”

Shya said she was inspired by Sue, since she came to art late and has made quite a mark with her horse portraits.

Sue, in turn, commented on Shya’s energy and ingenuity, noting that participation in an art group to which she belonged had been low until Shya became the administrator.

“She changed the name to “Art of the Horse,” which was brilliant, and gave each day a theme, allowing artists to share their work, works in progress, successes, things they are grateful for.  She has single-handedly turned the group into a community that supports each other in a very short period of time.

“I’ve never seen anything like it.  She takes time to comment on everyone’s posts.  She started a monthly banner contest that had over 100 works of art posted in the first week.

“When she asked me to be on the Equine Art Hour, I had to admit that I wasn’t on Twitter yet.  She helped me with that, bringing me out of the dinosaur age, and when there was a free marketing seminar on line, she sent me the links to help me even more,” Sue added.

She called Shya, “A wonderful and creative artist in her own right. She’s an absolute angel and has done so much to enrich other artists’ lives. I am definitely one of them.”

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