When I first spotted an image from Millee Tibbs Virgin Land series, I immediately thought of my sister; if I am guilty of having a soft spot for horses, she must have nothing rigid left about her, and Halloween is a popular time around the barn for the youngsters she teaches.
I headed to Tibbs’ site to see more, though, and learned there’s a much darker concept behind the simple, poignant photos of horses wearing horns – and it’s beautiful.
In Tibbs’ own words:
The symbol of the unicorn and the myth of the American west are equally clichéd. Both have been drained of meaning through overuse – the unicorn through kitsch and the west through romanticized narratives of cowboys and the Wild West. The complexities of the history of the land are eclipsed by its photogenic beauty which has been captured repeatedly by both amateur and professional image makers in service of the idealic. Like the unicorn, the exoticism of the American West is something to be coveted, captured, displayed and idealized. Both are imaginary products of desire. Much like the construction of myth of the west, the unicorn and its promise of virginal reward is only a horse with a horn.
And yet, “only a horse with a horn” is still a pretty magnificent creature – but the stoic eyes of the horses Tibbs captures, wearing a slightly ludicrous, ill-suited horn, seem almost wistful for the impossible ideal, in a way that I can’t help but relate to the ongoing discussions of self-image and questionable ideals among our own human cultures. What is the value of the ideal after all, and does its possibility matter in the least?
What do you think? For more of this series, and other works from Millee Tibbs, visit her portfolio.
image credits: Millee Tibbs