Horses prancing, horses grazing, horses kicking up their heels and horses drinking from a pool. Big horses, tiny horses and horses of many different colors. The studio of Oakdale artist Vonnie Muniain has an almost overwhelming array of horse art from sculptures to silkscreen to paintings.
She currently is preparing for the upcoming Cowboy Christmas show, which will run Friday, Nov. 23 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and on Saturday, Nov. 24 from 9 a.m. to 4 pm. at the Gene Bianchi Community Center in Oakdale.
On a recent day, Muniain was in her studio gathering small horse figurines and one so-far legless and antlerless reindeer.
“This one’s called Drag,” Muniain said, laughing about the unfinished reindeer.
The artist laughs often, enjoying what she does, and happy to pass on her knowledge to others. Her project that day was to ‘cook’ some horses, firing them in the multi-step Raku process in her kiln. She has several kilns on the property and also was planning to meet with some fellow artists to make more figurines later in the day.
Her contagious interest in art has influenced many of her friends.
“She’s the person that really inspired me to pursue my ceramics,” said fellow artist Janet Haroldson, noting that Muniain has had an impact on various artists and art in the community.
“I push all my friends to do more,” agreed Muniain.
She also pushes herself, continuing to attend classes, reading art books, learning new art forms and going to workshops as often as possible. Not continuing to learn, she said, could make her “go stale” and that’s not something she plans to allow.
“She’s the most incredible artist in every way,” added artist Cheri Martin of Sonora. “She’s so diverse that she amazes me.”
Among her mediums, Muniain works in paint, silk screen, clay and wrought iron sculpture and more, though her equestrian theme remains prominent all the way through.
“My mom’s side were all horse people,” Muniain said of her influences growing up and she also has her own “baby,” her horse Macho, with her at home. Her grandfather was a horse trainer and her brother now carries on that family tradition. She related a story from her childhood, noting that the only way they could get her to stop crying was for her grandfather to take her for a ride on a horse.
She also discovered her love of art at a young age.
“My mom gave me a crayon,” Muniain said, and the equestrian artist was born.
For years she gave her work away but entered the ‘professional’ realm with the long ago first sale of a piece of her artwork.
Now, she continues to enjoy creating and selling and said her current favorite medium to work in is clay, with the ceramic clay allowing her to “work big.”
Her garden has the appearance of being cared for by an artist as well, with plants and sculptures incorporating the elemental themes of water, wind and fire and a large Tree of Life sculpture as well. Other favorite pieces she shows in the garden are a large purple pony, a metal hawk, an ‘outdoor room’ with a wooden door and a sculpted wrought iron horse, placed under the cover of a weeping willow tree. The wrought iron outline, she explained, is a memorial to Colorful, one of the many horses she had had over the years.
Always busy, Muniain participates in numerous art shows throughout the year. The Draft Horse Classic in Grass Valley, the Horse Expo in Sacramento, and Oakdale-based shows including the Western Art Show, Valley Art Association shows and the Stanislaus County Artist Open Studio Tour are among those on her schedule.
She is heavily involved with the Valley Art Association and the Women of Western Art Association and is working on finishing multiple pieces for this weekend’s Cowboy Christmas.
As far as advice for any aspiring artists out there, Muniain said it might sound a little cliché, but it also is true: “Practice and get a thick skin because not everyone is going to like what you do.”