Sunday, October 28, 2007

Artist corrals horses, ideas with photographs

By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer

It took more than 20 years for the professional photographer to find his eye. It was in the last place he thought to look - a Mexican cemetery.
No, no - Keith Carter didn't spend two decades chasing after a runaway eyeball. The eye he had missed for so long was his own way of looking at things.
'The eye of every photographer is different,' Carter said. 'It takes a long time to find.'
On that Mexican graveyard stroll so many years ago, Carter said he saw dozens of things he could photograph.
'But those pictures had all been done before,' Carter said. 'I wanted to do something different, something that was me.'
The stroll was long, he said - so long and boring he'd thought it was a waste of time.
But then Carter looked up, and saw tattered paper streamers hanging from tree branches.
'They looked like they were ghosts, floating over the tombstones,' Carter said, adding that the memory still gives him chills.
It was at that moment, Carter said, that he finally figured the purpose of his pictures.
'I never was into literal photography,' Carter said. 'I didn't want my picture to be a mirror. I wanted it to be a window toward what I felt.' That self-discovery, he said, became a goal of his photography.
And the goal is one well met, said Bill Wittliff - an award-winning screenwriter from Austin who owns at least 700 of Carter's photographs. Wittliff wrote the teleplay and was executive producer for the Emmy award-winning TV mini-series 'Lonesome Dove' in 1989. His film credits include 'The Black Stallion' (1979), 'Country' (1984), 'Legends of the Fall' (1994), and 'The Perfect Storm' (2000).
On the Keith Carter Studio Web site, Wittliff describes Carter's work as emotive.
'He has a soul-deep itch to create - to make art, to elevate others and be elevated himself. But I cannot say from what source that itch in Keith, or in any other great artist, comes,' Wittliff said. 'At times I am convinced it is self-chosen before the artist ever draws breath - a wish granted by some benevolent god.
'Perhaps the proper response to the great mystery is simply to stand there in awe of the work - as I do of my friend, Keith,' Wittliff concludes. 'And gratefully accept its blessings.'

In town
Carter will be in Central Texas this weekend to give a gallery tour and lecture.
The photographer will present 'Gumbo Ya-Ya: Life as Art' 4-6 p.m. Nov. 4 at the Celebration Center, 216 Royal St. in Salado. It's part of the fall lecture series at Salado Institute for the Humanities.
Carter will also be at the Bell County Museum 5-7 p.m. Nov. 3 to talk about his 'Ezekiel's Horse,' a photo exhibition on display there until Jan. 19.
'Ezekiel's Horse' includes 55 duotone photographs of horses from over the world - from Connemara, Ireland, to Lascaux, France, to Peru.
'For me, horses are mythic, grand, elegant, companionable, intelligent and dangerous. They are also mysterious,' Carter said, describing his inspiration for the project. 'I confess that it has never been the wildness of horses that has attracted me, but rather their patience in the face of an unnatural domestication.'
For the collection's inception, however, the photographer said he owes credit to Leonardo DaVinci, famed painter of the 'Mona Lisa.'
'I got the idea from Leonardo DaVinci,' Carter said. 'He's the one who said, 'Horses were God's most perfect design.' I agree with that. It's a very improbable, eloquent design.'
To complete the project, Carter said he spent several years touring the United States, South America and Europe.
'Part of what I wanted my pictures to do was show that horses have been here through the whole history of civilization,' Carter said. 'Man made them domestic. That's something I wanted to capture in my photography - the domesticity of horses, their huge bodies on dainty hooves.'
Carter's fondest project memory is of Ezekiel, the little boy who prompted the name, 'Ezekiel's Horse.'
The photographer met the lad in Argentina.
'A boy and his sister were riding a huge draft horse to school,' Carter said. 'That horse intrigued me, so I followed them.'
Ezekiel's horse led the photographer to a one-room schoolhouse that stood alone on a vast field.
'The children there only went to school three days for half a day,' Carter said. 'It was a working community. The rest of the time the children had to help the family with the farm.'
After introducing Carter to his class, the teacher asked the children if they could pinpoint the photographer's home - the 'American Texas' - on the globe.
'Nobody could,' Carter said. 'So the teacher did.'
Then the old and worn globe dropped to the floor, busting in half.
'Little Ezekiel put half the world on his head and started to walk,' Carter said. 'With half the world on his head, Ezekiel stood beside his horse - and the horse leaned over him and nuzzled.'

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