Rationale for Zelzah
In the spring of 2016, the Northridge South Neighborhood Council had a call for artists to submit their ideas to paint a life-sized, fiberglass horse to put in a prominent location in the city. Although I was not selected for the project, I am still proud of my ideas. The following is my rationale for Zelzah.
The city of Northridge had many different names before it became Northridge. My horse, Zelzah, is named after one of the city’s former names. The city of Zelzah earned its name because it was an “unexpected oasis.” It was also one of the meeting places of the Gabrielino, or Tonga, who were native to the area. To honor the native people of the area, I covered the horse’s entire body with a prominent pattern of one of their most beautiful crafts, the coil basket. When studying the Tonga’s baskets, I learned that they often wove them so tightly that they held water. I applied this tight weave over the body of the horse in a way that would accentuate the horse’s bone structure and musculature. The base of a coil basket is formed by a mesmerizing spiral design, which radiates from the horse’s eyes. I also reference a technique known as imbrication. Imbrication involves folding a decorative element, like a different color grass, under each sewing stitch on the outer surface of the basket. On Native American baskets, imbrication folds resemble rows of corn kernels. I applied imbrication that alludes to some of Northridge’s historical events. For example, on the right side of the horse, I include a pastoral landscape that was inspired by a mural in the Mural Room of Oakride Estates, formerly known as Marwyck Ranch, a thoroughbred breeding, boarding, and training ranch. The landscape is reminiscent of a bygone era when Northridge was known for “celebrity ranches,” with large homes, swimming pools, and horses. On the horse’s left side, the imbrication was developed from an earthquake map of Northridge’s January 17, 1994 earthquake. The strongest section of the quake map, the Northridge section, is placed nearest the horse’s heart, indicating Northridge as both the epicenter and the heart of the horse.
I used a very warm palette, not only because it relates to the yellows in the Tonga basket, but also because it evokes the warm yellows and oranges associated with citrus farms of the area. I plan to keep the palette luminescent by using translucent layers of intense colors, much like a watercolor artist preserves luminosity. The basket patterns and intense color choices also evoke a psychedelic journey, which is both eye catching and relates to Northridge’s history as the site of the late 1960’s rock music festivals at Devonshire Downs.