HONEST HORSES: A PORTRAIT OF THE MUSTANG IN THE GREAT BASIN
Wild horses conjure up an image of mythical proportions. Not only are they a reminder of our country’s emergence as a nation, but their role in the evolution and history of the American West and their impact on Native American culture is also profound. As a cultural icon enshrined in our collective imagination, the mustang remains as mysterious and enduring as the bald eagle, the grizzly bear, and the wolf.
More than fifty percent of this country’s wild horses live in Nevada’s Great Basin—a vast, high desert etched by more than 160 mountain ranges stretching from Utah’s Wasatch Range to California’s Sierra Nevada. Sometimes called the “Big Empty,” the Great Basin is a stark and fragile region rich in minerals, plants, and animals. However, unlike livestock, which are harvested, or wildlife, which are hunted, there are no natural predators to control wild horse populations. Overgrazing and lack of water can make large herds of horses a threat to this fragile environment—a danger to themselves, as well as to the wildlife and livestock that share the open range with them. Although wild horses are protected by federal law, the problem of how to humanely care for and manage excess numbers of these animals remains unresolved and often misunderstood by the public.
Honest Horses: A Portrait of the Mustang in the Great Basin presents an uncommon view that demonstrates the significance of the wild horse in the American West. The photographs and narratives were made during 1999–2001, during which time Paula Morin photographed wild horse herds in their natural surroundings and recorded discussions with people whose lives are most intimately connected with them. Each black and white photograph was developed, printed, and then colored by hand with oil-based paints.
Paula Morin for the Nevada Arts Council
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