Little Pink Cowboys

Clayton Porter

HE DRAWS LITTLE PINK COWBOYS. If you ask Clayton Porter why, he blames the artist Bruce Nauman and a married woman he was trying to woo.

His work is critically and financially successful and he’s worked on a staggering variety of subjects in a staggering variety of mediums – but for the last twelve years, he keeps coming back to the cowboys. Why?

Little pink cowboys?

I started the cowboys when two things were happening. I was participating in a long distance affair with a married woman, and I was also working for the artist Bruce Nauman.

But let me back up. My dad was a member of a team roping club, so I grew up around horses. When I was young, my parents got divorced, and all of that went away, but I’ve always felt a closeness to horses and horsemanship.

When I was working for Bruce, we would have lots of conversations about horses. He has horses, loves horses. And he loaned me a VHS of this guy training horses. The guy was demonstrating how to work with a wild horse, a horse that had never seen people before, and he was working with the horse, and he started to say things that felt very similar to how I was feeling in my long distance affair.

He was talking about building trust and how to use the presence of your body to move the horse through space and then relieving that pressure when the horse comes towards you.

He said that a horse has a conflict within itself – that its primary defense mechanism is flight, but that it’s also a herd animal looking for something to be connected to. This language became a metaphor for me as this relationship was unfolding. I was dealing with the difficulty of being in love with a married woman who wasn’t mine and not knowing where it was gonna go.

So I was thinking about this guy in the pen. And the idea of breaking horses, how rodeo riders have a lineage in breaking horses, and how explosive that is, how violent, how chaotic. And how you’re not sure how it’s ever gonna end up. These guys are just trying their best to outlast the force of the bucking broncos, hanging on for dear life.

That’s how I landed the bronc rider as a subject.



Photo Clayton Porter