A small crowd gathered on the lawn at William Ris Gallery Friday afternoon as an eye-catching new installation was unveiled.
The life-sized horse sculpture made from driftwood and metal was constructed by Franco Cuttica, an Argentinian-born artist whose family emigrated to New York when he was 6 years old.
“I would always collect driftwood,” he said Friday at the Jamesport gallery. “I’m a big collector in general.”
Mr. Cuttica, 29, explained that he amassed a large collection of driftwood found while exploring along the East River growing up. Those pieces would eventually become his first sculpture, which sold within days of being placed on the lawn outside his family’s East Hampton home.
In the decade since, Mr. Cuttica has created over 100 horse sculptures in the series to honor both his love of the animal and his Argentinian roots.
Having recently moved to Flanders, he’s enjoying the exploration necessary for him to complete his work. “It’s driftwood heaven out here,” he said. It can take weeks and even months of beachcombing to find wood that can serve as specific joints and parts of the horse, and the reward of finding each piece presents a jigsaw puzzle-like challenge.
He then incorporates metal and custom plywood pieces to break up the organic appearance. Each horse is finished off by charring the wood with a torch and cleansing it with water, combining the four elements: fire, water, air and earth.
Aside from being born in 1990, the Year of the Horse according to the Chinese zodiac, Mr. Cuttica’s connection with the animal is embedded in his culture.
“Horses have a meaningful, symbolic place for me,” he said.
The gauchos — rugged, nomadic, expert horsemen — are a national symbol of Argentina, honored through legend and folklore.
“I never had the connection with the horses since we moved away when I was young, but I was always curious about it,” Mr. Cuttica said. “So it was a detached connection, but always a love. I started making them to connect more with the culture, to study and praise the animal.”