Bringing life to art

YOUNGSTOWN – Iris Murray wasn’t sure what to make of the life-sized picture of the horse displayed on the museum wall in front of her.

The 6-year-old said she had never seen anything like that before. She also had never before seen a Clydesdale up close.

“I told her that a Clydesdale is the Cadillac of horses. But I don’t think she was too impressed by that at first,” explained her grandfather, John D’Angelo of Niles.

Her perspective quickly changed when she and D’Angelo stepped outside the Butler Institute of American Art on Sunday and walked up to two Clydesdales – Brodie and Finn.

The horses were invited to the Butler as part of the Youngstown museum’s celebration of the new exhibit, Peter Maier’s “Horse Power (Ben),” a 9-by-11 1/2-foot masterwork that had not yet been seen by the public. Shady Lane Clydesdales, owned by the Yeagley-Donaldson family of Greenford, provided Brodie and Finn.

“I think this really is a great opportunity for people to see the horses and to see what they’re like up close,” explained Janet Yeagley-Donaldson. “I think it’s especially great for kids who live in the city or in more urban areas who might not have an opportunity otherwise. They can see the portrait in the museum and actually compare it to the real thing. It makes you appreciate the art even more.”

Shaniyah Crenshaw, 4, hesitantly put her hand up to 3-year-old Brodie’s nose.

“I’m not sure he likes that,” she told her stepmom, Tasha Jackson of Warren. “I hope so, ’cause I really like him. He seems really nice. He kinda looks like his picture.”

Maier, a photorealist painter, painted the portrait of a Budweiser Clydesdale named Ben with automotive paint on fabricated black aluminum panel. The work was completed in 2011 and is on the main level of the museum. The painting weighs 1,000 pounds.

“Today is really a celebration of Peter Maier’s work,” explained Butler docent Cynthia Anderson. “It’s fascinating to see the reactions of the people here, especially the children, when they see the horses outside and then see the portrait inside. It’s such a beautiful portrayal.”

Maier, born in 1945 in Brooklyn, N.Y., the son of immigrants. At 18, he was selected to work on the sculpture for the 1964 New York World’s Fair.

After serving in Vietnam, he went to work for General Motors, where he rose to the level of senior designer. His imprint can be found on a number of the automaker’s classic designs.

Maier works from his studio in rural Buck Hill Falls, Pa., and has been painting and selling his work since 1980.

Recently, his work was the subject of two simultaneous solo exhibits at the Louis K. Meisel and the Bernaducci/Meisel galleries in Manhattan.

The Butler’s Trumbull branch in Howland is currently hosting an exhibition of photorealism, and two of Maier’s works are also included in that summer exhibition.

“The detail is remarkable,” said Tony Nicholas of Youngstown, who was at the museum Sunday with his daughter, Isabella, 9. “It really is amazing. He did a great job.”