Year of the Horse: Silver stallion heads to Vegas

Sculptor Marcia Spivak last week sent off a glimmering steel equine statue to mark the Year of the Horse, which begins Jan. 31. Ms. Spivak, who lives in Wilton and maintains a studio in Ridgefield, has produced many horse sculptures, but this will be her biggest and most public exhibit.

The half-ton statue, which is eight feet tall and 10 feet long, will be displayed in the center of the hotel’s expansive lobby. Above it, 144 traditional Chinese lanterns will hang, intertwined with a 70-meter Chinese dragon.

ARIA is owned by MGM Resorts International, which is planning celebrations at a number of its Las Vegas properties, but rather than a traditional horse, like that featured at its sister resort, Bellagio, ARIA sought a horse more in line with its modern style.

“ARIA researched several sculptors, however chose Marcia because her work not only had the appropriate style but also her horses possess the grace and modernity of ARIA,” as well as exhibiting “the strength, pride and spirit that appeals to ARIA guests,” an MGM spokesman said.

Qualities attributed to those born in the year of the horse include hotbloodedness, independence and endurance.

The commission was especially challenging, she said, since she only had six weeks to complete it. By contrast, a smaller piece judged best in show at the Spectrum exhibition in New Canaan last spring took over half a year to complete.

The silver stallion is made of 12-gauge steel that was forged of recycled material.

“I often work with carbon steel, but that rusts,” Ms. Spivak said last week as workers buffed away any imperfections from the statue’s surface. The resort did not want a material that would rust, and Ms. Spivak said bronze would have been cost-prohibitive, “so I thought stainless would be an interesting way to go.”

In addition, instead of creating a design based on her own inspiration, Ms. Spivak worked collaboratively with ARIA representatives. They wanted a horse that looked powerful, but not aggressive, she said. They also wanted a piece that was environmentally friendly, hence the use of steel from recycled material. Ms. Spivak often works with recycled material.

A large photo of a trotting Friesian was taped to the wall in Ms. Spivak’s studio, which she could use for reference, but her finished horse is much more elegant than the draft horse pictured. A frame of stainless round bar supports the exterior. Ms. Spivak used four to five eight-foot-by-four-foot sheets of the steel which she cut into pieces with a plasma cutter, bending and rolling them as needed, and then welded them onto to the frame. Often the shapes are random, sometimes planned.

“I start with the linear and the build on top until I have the conformation I want,” she said.

Ms. Spivak’s horses usually feature a tucked head, but this fellow has an elongated neck and a raised leg.

“I always find the head and neck a challenge,” she said, but actually, “the legs and hooves are the hardest because of the muscles and bones.”

The more powerful parts, the chest and hindquarters, are the parts she likes the best. This horse is among the largest she’s made and it stands on a 10-foot-by-four-foot base made of 10-gauge steel.

Among her pieces on public display, she has a bigger-than-life carbon steel horse at the Silvermine Guild of Artists in New Canaan, and another piece at the Governor’s Mansion in Hartford. Next, she will make a smaller piece for the Greenwich Arts Council.

Ms. Spivak sent the horse off in the snow last Friday and planned to be in Las Vegas to meet it.

“This is a big deal for me,” she said. “I’ve been in public spaces but this is the biggest.”