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Equestrian artist’s obsession for horses captures the energy, emotion of animal

By Staff | Jan 19, 2011

Fort Myers artist Sherry Rohl stands next to her oil painting, entitled "Eleventh Hour," on display at Watson MacRae Gallery through the end of the month.

For as long as she can remember, Sherry Rohl has been fascinated with horses.

At the age of 3, Rohl began drawing horses. She enjoyed spending time at her uncle’s farm, where he raised shetland ponies. And when she got a little older, her parents bought a half-interest in a show horse.

“I remember riding my bike every day so I could go riding,” said Rohl, who was raised in Mansfield, Ohio. “It was kind of an obsession.”

But once she graduated from high school, Rohl’s passion for all things equestrian took a backseat to her love for drawing and painting. She studied art at the College of Design, Art and Architecture at the University of Cincinnati. While the majority of her creations focused on sculpture, she found that carrying around a sketch pad or a few painting materials was an easier way for her to make her artwork “more portable.”

But for the past decade, Rohl has returned to her first love and has concentrated on creating equine paintings, drawings and monotypes.

Sherry Rohl's "Come Through The Fog" captures a horse in full gallop.

“I just started following my horse muse again,” she said. “I was around horses almost 24 hours a day from the age of 12 to 20. I feel that art is sort of autobiographical. It’s part of my story.”

Currently, Rohl is exhibiting some of her most recent work at the Watson MacRae Gallery as part of the “Sacred Creatures” showcase.

“I look at these pieces, which were done over different periods of my life,” she said. “My inspiration for these paintings represents conflict… and potential… and gestation. They were created chronologically in that sequence. They have sort of resonated my moods.”

According to gallery owner Maureen Watson, Rohl’s passion for and sensitivity to her subject, as well as an exceptional drafting ability, enable her to express the power and strength of stallions on the run and the tenderness and vulnerability of an expectant mare at rest.

“Rohl is able to capture the anatomical correctness of each horse, as well as its individual personality and essence – no easy task,” said Watson. “More like portraits, Rohl’s horses look straight at us and meet us eye-to-eye. Most striking is her unexpected composition that gives these works an unusual feel and attitude, compelling us to realize these are not your usual horse pictures.”

A pair of Sherry Rohl paintings, titled "Reflection" and "Head Shy," currently on display at Watson MacRae Gallery.

Rohl, who lives and works in Fort Myers and Woodstock, N.Y., creates work that is prized by horse and art lovers alike.

In 2007, Rohl received Best in Show at EquiFest, an exhibit of international horse artists and was selected in 2008 as the featured artist at the Deland Museum’s Equine Event in Deland, Fla.

“I think these works are pretty good examples of my method and materials, which kind of marry into my emotions,” Rohl explained, pointing to her four paintings on display at the gallery. “This is a particularly good group to see how it all works together.”

Her sequence of paintings — from “Reflection” and “Head Shy” to “Come Through The Fog” and “Eleventh Hour” — are each created in monotone, both stark and subtle shades of black and white and grays in between. Asked why she has chosen to use this essentially minimalist approach, and Rohl gives an almost “matter of fact” answer.

“The word ‘elemental’ comes to mind,” she said. “Color might even be a distraction here. In monotone, it is how I sense their form and their feelings.”

Rohl shuns any romantic or sentimental notions about her horses. If anything, she views her work as autobiographically existential — more a reflection of a phase in her life than about her directly.

“I’ve recently became a grandmother and find myself drawing colts,” she added. “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.”

For more information about Rohl’s paintings, call 472-3386 or visit www.WatsonMacRaeGallery.com. The gallery is located at 2340 Periwinkle Way #B3 on Sanibel.