By Christine Galeone, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Sandra Olson has loved animals for as long as she can remember. When she was a little girl, her concern for them led her to welcome – courtesy of her good-natured parents – injured and stray ones into her home. Her fascination with them motivated her to draw them and to spend many happy hours transforming paint-by-number kits into works of art.
But horses held a particularly special place in her heart.
“I am that horse crazy little girl that never grew out of it,” she said.
That passion fueled the Westborough resident’s dream to paint the wild horses and burros of America. In 2017, through social media collaborations, that dream became a reality.
“I’ve developed relationships with some very talented and generous photographers who allow me to interpret what they see through my eyes and paint,” Olson said of collaborations that have resulted in her “Wild Mustangs of America” series of paintings. “I can imagine myself standing shoulder to shoulder with them and creating my vision.”
The paintings and prints from the series, which are sold through the Art and Frame Emporium in Westborough and through Olson’s website, www.sandraolsonwildlifeartist.com, capture stunning mustangs. They include members of the Onaqui Mountain herd in Utah, the Salt River herd in Arizona, the Sand Wash Basin herd in Colorado and the herd in North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
Olson, who strives to capture the mustangs’ spirits “through light, shadow and color,” said that she pays attention to what makes each one unique and intriguing.
“It isn’t necessarily about painting the biggest, most impressive stallion,” Olson explained. “I’ve had the chance to paint two of the oldest stallions, one in Colorado – Picasso – and one in Utah – Gandalf. The challenge and what I love most is portraying them at their age with all their battle scars but with strength and dignity.”
Olson hopes they can maintain that strength and dignity. While she has enjoyed getting to know the talented photographers, she’s also delighted that the series has introduced her to equine advocacy groups and sanctuaries.
“Every time I pick up a brush, I am so grateful for the chance to paint them,” Olson shared. “One of the things I’m happiest about is that the series has given me the chance to donate a portion of the proceeds of the sale of each painting or print to the local boots-on-the-ground advocacy group that supports the horses depicted in that painting.”
Her support of the wild horses and burros also includes raising awareness of the challenges they face.
“I know it sounds like a cliché, but to me, they – and all our country’s wildlife – are national treasures to be protected,” said Olson, who ardently supports H.R. 961 – The SAFE Act (Safeguard American Food Exports Act) of 2019, which will, if passed, prohibit United States horse slaughter for consumption and the export of live horses to be consumed in other countries.
In the meantime, Olson is enjoying continuing the series. Her goal is to paint at least one wild horse or burro from each herd in the United States.
She said, “My hope…is that I can continue to bring them to the forefront and make people aware of just how beautiful they are in their natural surroundings.”