Don’t Fence Her In

By March 22, 2011
Lesley Anne Webb

Artist Lesley Anne Webb in her studio in Grass Valley, California.

If there is a catchphrase that best describes the work of artist Leslie Anne Webb, it’s ‘Don’t fence me in.”  Her work, like nearly everything she does, is big and bold, from her choice of oversize canvasses, to her horses, with their whimsical expressions, peering out at the viewer as though they might be leaning over a fence for a treat. But it’s her use of strong, vibrant colors that provides the kicker. Webb likes to imagine that her work brings viewers “a sense of peace or a smile to their face.”

It was that goal which drove Webb to define her style, a quest that began eight years ago when she became fed up with a fast-paced world that she felt was causing her to lose focus. She refers to this period as her “do-over time.” Selling off all her worldly belongings, she moved with five horses to a bare swath of land in Grass Valley, where she erected a tepee. Learning to live without life’s luxuries (like running water!) allowed her to get back to the basics. In the process of redefining herself, she redefined her art.

Absent the distractions of civilization, Webb recalls the sense of solitude when she picked up her paintbrush and looked into the eyes of a horse, and how it allowed her to open up to her intuitive side and the pure experience of opening herself to the colors of the world and the personalities of the animals.

Webb started to discover the person she believes she was born to be. “I vowed to dedicate my life to painting these larger-than-life, colorful horses, and to saving as many of them as possible.” Webb made it her mission to be surrounded by horses and to enlighten those around her through art. “Most of all,” she says, “I wanted to have a cause or a purpose of importance.”

Studying Webb’s work, it doesn’t take long to understand her purpose is to support abandoned and abused horses. She is an ardent supporter of the United Pegasus and Cloud Foundations and dedicates much of her time to educating people about the plight of America’s wild horses, and why it’s important we pause in our day-to-day routines to remember our connections to each other and to what Webb refers to as the “energy around us.”

Many of Webb’s subjects are horses she has rescued. She sets them against bold shades of blue-green, red-orange, purple and yellow that come to her as she studies the animals, like an aura, allowing her to visually recreate the energy she feels as gets to know them. There’s Charlie Blue Eyes, who in her latest work, looks askance at the viewer, his head slightly tilted as though he might be about to turn and run, pausing cautiously against a massive blue background. There’s Sam, formerly a PMU baby, now an 18-hand gray Percheron draft horse rescued by the United Pegasus Foundation. Webb has painted Sam’s stunning profile, his white mane partially covering his eyes, against a vivid red background. In one of her newest works, entitled Eat, Pray, Love, she has paired two giant red-orange horses, one about to affectionately nuzzle the other as they gaze at the viewer against a spill of bold blue. Sometimes a client will ask Webb to paint their horse with certain colors, but she says that she instead lets the horse guide her.

Webb’s refusal to be ‘fenced in’ by conventional standards doesn’t end with her work on the canvas. Her artistic sensibility extends from her studio, where she lives and paints next to the tepee, to the arena where she works with people to teach them about the healing powers of the horse.

Three years ago Webb opened the Circle Seven Ranch. “The ranch,” says Webb, “is a form of equine-guided education, promoting healing through horses.” She believes strongly in a universal spiritual energy, a human-animal connection, and says that people have the ability to learn and to be healed from horses if they open their hearts and minds to the possibility. “The horse is a teacher, and offers us lessons in honesty, truth, authenticity… breaking down the walls that keep us from connecting with ourselves and others on a deeper and more spiritual level.”

Today, eight years after her “do-over” and looking back on her first days in the tepee, Webb says, “There is a sense of knowing, a tranquil state of excitement that soothes the soul.” She knows she’s doing what she’s been called to do. “It is through my artwork and the presence of these majestic horses that I hope to change the world for the better.”

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