Racing to a photo shoot for a major cosmetic company, longtime fashion photographer Leslie Priggen stopped abruptly, as if blinded by a strobe light.
What was she doing, she wondered, as she hurried to get ready for her next assignment while pondering the 22 years that had passed in a blur of dazzling cities, and strict deadlines.
“I’d been looking at some animal portraits I’d picked up when I was in England and I had this moment like you see in the cartoons, when a light bulb went off over my head,” she says. “The portraits of animals are always done from a point of love … and I realized I didn’t want to do fashion photography anymore.”
Shortly thereafter, Priggen set down roots on the North Shore of Massachusetts, picked up a paintbrush, and began creating portraits of horses, hunt scenes and cherished family pets.
In this week’s Clubhouse Q&A, Priggen, a board member of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, discusses her call to the canvas, and an upcoming charity fundraiser in Hamilton, Mass. to benefit the foundation.
Q: How did you decide to make the leap from photographer to artist?
I was a fashion photographer for 22 years based in New York. I traveled all the time, and was in Paris, Milan, and London, when I woke up one day and said, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore.’
As a single mother, I didn’t want to travel as much, and as a woman, I was in the minority in the field.
Q: Please describe your artwork.
I work mostly in oils, and do some pastels, and I do a lot of landscapes, or paintings of foxes or terriers and horses. Sometimes I’ll see a particular horse and think he’s divine, and I’ll try to capture him. I’ve done a lot of studies of horses at the walk and the gallop.
Q: Next month, your work will be sold at the Myopia Hunt Tea & Art Show to benefit the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.
I’ve been on the board of the TRF for nine years, and I’m very, very committed to what we do. When you decide to be an artist you decide to be poor, but in this way, by having a show and donating the proceeds, it’s my way of helping.
The first horse I bought was a Thoroughbred who was supposedly too dangerous to handle. He became the love of my life, and I still think about him everyday. His name was Mason and I got him as a 5 year old and had him for 15 years.
I also fostered a horse that was an old pony at Suffolk Downs.
He was amazing. He belonged to this old exercise rider and every morning they had doughnuts together. After I got permission from the TRF to take him in, his exercise rider put his arm around his neck and said to him, ‘You will be safe forever, my friend.’ He lived a long, happy life with me, trotting around the field with his tail up.
Q: When and where is the The Myopia Hunt Tea & Art Show?
Date: Nov. 14
Time: 5:30 to 8 p.m.
Location: The home of Camilla and Carry Rich, 100 Maple St., Hamilton, MA
RSVP to Jodie Stevenson at 978-468-4769, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The evening will feature portraits by Leslie Priggen, sculpture in bronze and cast stone by Peggy Kauffman, porcelain by Daphne Boardman and collectables by Haleyon House Antiques.