Jonathan Ching lassoes a portion of the cowboy's rugged and mythic life as immortalized by the Marlboro Man. Titled after an Irish proverb, Grace Is Found Between Saddle and the Ground depicts a weathered leather saddle, the only evidence of a phantom rider and an equally phantom horse, floating through the American West's big sky and billowing fields. Screwed to the bottom of the canvas, a rattlesnake made from a sheet of hammered copper slithers through the underbrush.
Muscular strokes of ominous cerulean and black contrast with the delicate brushwork of the saddle, which exhibits the highest level of detail thus far from Ching. Straps twist, dangle, and end in stirrups; floral curlicues blossom up and down the worn leather seat, shiny from years of use in the great outdoors. Writhing flower patterns similar to those on the saddle race over the rattlesnake's sinuous back.
Beyond, fine blades of grass create a melancholy and expansive landscape, natural habitat of the iconic cowboy, America's symbol of individualism, self-reliance, and virility. Ching leaves the absence of man and beast for viewers to interpret; it is not far-fetched to imagine the fading of a legend. As the Marlboro Man rides off into the proverbial sunset, the lyrics of Johnny Cash echo through the grasslands: "Make me as big and open as the plains. As honest as the horse between my knees. Clean as the wind that blows behind the rains. Free as the hawk that circles down the breeze."
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