Grab your hat, it's off to the races tomorrow at 20 North Gallery in downtown Toledo.
"Derby Days," an exhibition of equine paintings and sculptures by 10 artists, opens at 4 p.m. Saturday with a Kentucky Derby party.
"It's just a fun show," says Peggy Grant, art director of the gallery.
Guests will watch the Derby on a television set on the gallery's baby grand piano. A vase of red blooms will represent the Derby's "run for the roses" theme. Grant suggests that women attending tomorrow's free reception wear large hats, as is a Derby tradition.
Stars of this year's show are two paintings by the well-known sports artist LeRoy Neiman, who has painted events ranging from the Kentucky Derby to the America's Cup.
Most charming is Neiman's The Carousel, in which horses, running and rearing around a merry-go-round, appear to have come to life in a wild burst. They are vibrant beasts, expressionistic in blue, ochre, and pink. "They leave something for the eye to fill in," said Grant. Oil on board, The Carousel carries a $50,000 price tag.
In Neiman's Clubhouse Turn, jockeyed horses round the bend at Churchill Downs. Track dirt is pink and orange; horses are red and blue streaks.
The prolific Neiman became known in the 1950s when he was a young artist selling work to Playboy magazine. He's painted sports and leisure events of all kinds, wild animals in wild colors, and jazzed portraits of musicians.
A large painting by Grant carries a rich story dating back three generations. Its subject is an elderly Samuel Riddle seated in front of a barn stall, his great chestnut-colored horse, Man O' War, behind him. Riddle was a friend of Grant's father, Edward Brennan, manager of racecourses in the 1930s and 1940s and an expert at equine bloodlines. Grant's grandfather, John T. Brennan, was the superintendent of the Pimlico Race Course around the turn of the 20th century.
Grant, a Baltimore native, made the picture two years ago from a photograph in her home. Sentiment prevailed, she said; she'll give the piece to Pimlico, in Baltimore, hoping they'll hang it in the clubhouse or reading room.
The show includes a pair of small, bronze sculptures by Carol Gorney; a spirited stallion kicking up heels, mounted on a black marble base, and a regal beast, standing tall on a black pedestal.
Ironworker Mike Sohikian's several pieces include a playful herd of six running steeds, and the silhouetted head of a horse unfurling from a steel cylinder, its mane a flowing flag.
Dennis Trame's bronze series, Beating a Dead Horse, looks like artifacts unearthed from an Oriental tomb.
Baltimore painter Joyce Lister lent seven pastels of jockeys on horseback. Grant called her out of the blue and invited her to send her work to the show.
Also participating are Pamela Busick, Elaine Mikel, Jeri Hollister, and Shel Markel, Joanne Grossmann.
"Derby Days" opens tomorrow with a reception from 4 to 7 p.m. The exhibition continues through June 18. The gallery at 20 North St. Clair St. is open from noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday to Friday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Information: 419-241-2400.
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