As I live in the Hudson river valley, not far from Saratoga, I’m familiar with the grand facade – galleries filled with glamorous paintings of racing horses, expensive shops catering to wealthy tourists, and a town that worships the racing industry in the way any city kneels before the capitalist altar that feeds it. But I’m also aware of the dark underbelly in a way that makes me hate the pastel- covered tourists, the casual gamblers, and especially the horse “loving” profiteers who make their living off the broken bodies of animals who deserve much better. Aside from the dramatic deaths on the track, when fragile bodies are pushed too hard, there is also the sponging, drugging, culling, and other forms of abuse that are the pervasive way of life behind the scenes. It’s not just Saratoga, either. Literally hundreds of racehorses die every year over $2 bets. And when their careers are over, if they survived them anyway, even winning horses often wind up in slaughter houses. Even Kentucky Derby winners are not spared… there is no guarantee of the easy retirement these animals deserve.
It was a walk down a street in Saratoga Springs, at the height of the racing season, that made me want to find a way to paint the real face of horse racing. In between the trendy, upscale restaurants and the boutiques selling wide-brimmed hats catering to wealthy race tourists, there are horse- themed galleries tucked on virtually every block. The paintings are all the same – splashy, colorful images of majestic horses in bright racing gear flying down the track, neck and neck. Every painting glorifies the industry, erases the suffering carnage. Oh, and some of them are really beautiful, too. But all of them left me with a sense of profound despair, that this is what sells. That this is what people think about, and what they see, when it comes to racing.
I thought there should be paintings to counteract that lie. And so, I’m trying to paint them. These are the first two (*as of April 19, there are now 3) in what I hope will be a collection to be exhibited in time for this year’s season.
Please, don’t bet, don’t go, don’t support animal cruelty. Spread the word: horse racing kills.