June 22, 2018
Equine Inspired Art by Fletcher Golden
Fletcher Golden is an artist, teacher, horseman, and long rider who creates sculpted horses from pieces of driftwood, reclaimed from the Mississippi River, and held together with scrap steel of various origins. His equine-inspired art grew from an experience more than thirty years ago when he rode a Tennessee Walking Horse from Berkeley, California to Memphis, Tennessee. What started out as an idea born over a mug of beer in a trendy California bar became a once in a lifetime adventure for Golden.
Like many thirty year olds, Golden yearned for adventure. He decided that a visit to his hometown, Memphis, was in order and his mode of transportation would provide the adventure. So he sold his Triumph sports car and his motorcycle and used the proceeds to purchase a fifteen-year-old Tennessee Walking Horse named Brooks, whom he renamed Brooks the Wonder Horse.
He secured contour maps from the National Geodetic Survey and plotted a course across the country through sparsely populated areas, planning to camp nights along the trails. Then in June, 1979, he and Brooks started their journey from east, with the idea of arriving in Memphis by Christmas.
Once out of California, grass for Brooks to feed upon became non-existent. Each evening at the end of a hard day's travel, Golden would have to locate a ranch house and knock on the door, seeking food and shelter for him and his horse. Amazingly, during the entire journey, he was never refused! Seeing to the proper care of his horse gave Golden a serious sense of responsibility that he had not experienced before.
Since the trip was a planned adventure, Golden took side trips along the way: he took a rafting trip down the Colorado River; rode bucking broncs in two rodeos; and took part in a cattle roundup in Utah.
The most danger they faced on the entire trip was leaving Grand Junction, Colorado and following the railroad tracks. On the outskirts of town, they found they had to negotiate a tunnel, with only sufficient room to allow a train to pass through, and little or no room for a horse and rider. Golden sensed a rumbling in the tracks, but pressed on, passing safely through the tunnel. Just a few minutes after he and Brooks emerged on the other end, he discovered a Santa Fe train approaching! He took a photograph of the train entering the tunnel as he stood there on Brooks, realizing what a close a call they had had!
In early December 1979, Golden arrived in West Memphis, Arkansas and was greeted by the media. A news report was broadcast on a local television station and a newspaper article, complete with front page picture of Golden aboard Brooks the Wonder Horse, was published in the Memphis Press Scimitar. The next day, they crossed the bridge across the Mississippi River and arrived in Memphis. They were welcomed by friends and family who were all delighted to meet Brooks.
For the trip back to California, Golden purchased a pickup truck and a horse trailer so that Brooks could ride home in a degree of comfort.
Brooks lived for several years after the cross country trek. She died at the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine at the age of seventeen from a twisted intestine. Golden stayed in the stall with his dying friend for the last forty eight hours of her life, crying when she passed. He refused to allow his friend to be delivered to a bone meal factory and sought out space in a nearby state park, where, with the help of a couple of park rangers, he dug a grave and placed her in it.
Golden moved back to Memphis in 1986 and began a teaching career in 1995 as Outdoor Guide at Maria Montessori School in Harbor Town, a position he holds to this day.
Teaching his students about art, he soon found himself creating art out of driftwood from the nearby Mississippi River. His tactile knowledge of a horse's body, gleaned from countless hours of grooming Brooks, allowed him to create honest reproductions of the horse using driftwood and pieces of steel.
To have work space for his artistic creations, Golden built a barn in his back yard and now has a full-scale workshop. Brooks the Wonder Horse remains forever the inspiration for the sculptural creations of Fletcher Golden. His works have been exhibited at the L. Ross Gallery – “A Gathering of Horses,” and in a joint exhibit with his wife Jeanne Seagle at Gallery Fifty Six in Memphis.
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