Ashley Lewis has finished her latest art project at Lake City High School, and it’s not heading home in her backpack.
The senior in Pam Asher’s art class has created an 8-foot-tall horse from pieces of driftwood she collected around Lake Coeur d’Alene and the Spokane River.
Just how much the sculpture weighs is unknown, but it took eight guys from a weightlifting class to move it a few dozen yards outside the school this week. “Pick it up like it’s a baby!” Asher commanded them.
From head to hips to hooves, the work demonstrates a strong grasp of animal anatomy – fitting for the artist, who aspires to be an equine veterinarian and wants to study at Washington State University.
“This is just one of those things I’m going to do for fun and leisure – and maybe pay for college,” Lewis, 17, said.
She intends to sell this piece, which she named “Danny.” Lewis has sold a few smaller sculptures before and thinks she might get around $3,000 for this one.
“It will buy hay for my horses,” she said with a smile.
Asher, who hopes to introduce a new sculpture class next school year, is thrilled with her student’s accomplishment.
“It takes your breath away,” she said. “It’s so lovely.”
Lewis, whose artistic experience encompassed drawing, this year wanted to explore three-dimensional works. Asher suggested driftwood, and Lewis found herself inspired by the work of Montana artist Deborah Butterfield, known for similar sculptures made from found objects.
She labored on her ambitious piece since the school year began, spending about three hours a day outside in rain and snow and cold.
“She’s just such a tenacious kid,” Asher said.
Still, the piece did not turn out quite like Lewis planned.
“It was supposed to be a rearing horse, and then nature decided to take its toll and it kind of set itself back down” on all fours, she said.
That almost led her to abandon the work, but with Asher’s encouragement, she pressed on.
“I was really apprehensive. I didn’t really want to finish it at first,” Lewis said. “Now that it’s standing, I love it.”
The hardest part, she said, was fitting in the waterlogged head and tail pieces, which act as counterweights.
The chunk of wood she found for the head unmistakably resembles that of a horse.
“It was probably the last piece I found,” Lewis said. “I was walking down by Cedars (Floating Restaurant) one day. I was looking for pieces for the hooves, and I saw this and turned it sideways and I was like, there’s my horse head right there.”
She wrestled it into her compact car and headed back to the school.
The assortment of gnarled sticks and weathered chunks of wood are held together by screws and metal plates. A forked branch makes for a flowing mane.
Lewis said she tried to fit four or five different pieces in each spot before finding the right one. “It kind of chooses how it wants to be,” she said.
She’ll be on the hunt for more material soon as she anticipates her next subject: an elk.