The etching is called Focus Before the Storm, and the feral sorrel colt with a white blaze is kicking up the dust. The earth whirls and eddies about her hooves with a sense of kinetic energy unparalleled in scratchboard art. Every vibrant hair is alive with electricity. The shimmering background is a green-and-gold prelude to the explosion of energy to come. Viewers become part of the story, poised on the edge of some grand adventure, connected to the raw energy and drama of the wild. For artist Kody Bundy (pictured deep in her work at right) connection is key.
Growing up on a farm in northern Nebraska, the artist had her first equine encounter with a green-broke filly. The 2-year-old allowed Bundy to slip onto her back and sit quietly with nary a saddle, halter or bridle in sight. When the filly exploded into a gallop, an instant bond was formed. Kody’s father went shopping for a pony soon after.
“The only constant I’ve had in my life—except for one miserable year—is I have always had a horse,” says Bundy. “If I didn’t have that connection…I don’t know whether I would have found my way.”
And what a way it has been.
Since her Cornhusker State upbringing Bundy has had a variety of addresses across the plains and intermountain West. Though she’s always enjoyed drawing, she tucked away her talent for nearly 30 years. “I remember seeing those ads in magazines asking you to draw some illustration to qualify to their art school in Minnesota. I would practice and practice to get it right. But my dad influenced me to look for a different vocation to support myself. So I chose horse training.”
Then, while living near Great Falls, Mont., she attended a celebration of renowned hometown artist Charles M. Russell, who also liked horses and became known as the Cowboy Artist. Bundy discovered her media. “Scratchboard is a panel covered with white china clay, then airbrushed with a layer of black India ink,” she explains. “The artist etches an image using razor blades, knives or needles, nibs and steel wool. Just about any tool can be used to remove the black ink and reveal the white clay beneath the surface. Imagine a piece of artwork with each whisker or blade of grass shown in incredible detail. I was hooked.”
Working from her northeast Utah studio, Bundy finds inspiration all around, especially in the abundance of mountain wildlife. Photo studies aid her in setting up new compositions. “I patch together a story from the banks of images I keep on file to tell the story I want,” Bundy explains. “It’s like how a composer writes music.”
Bundy’s etchings capture such wildlife as elk, moose and mule deer, and, always, horses. In Bighorn Ram (above) the awakened subject glances back at the viewer, unconcerned, his stalwart nature reflected in the rugged butte in the background. The vibrant Red Rocker and Medicine Hat (at right) captures the moment a stiff-necked chestnut and a contrary pinto come nose to nose, a hint of mischief in their expressions.
“I try to attend at least four or five shows a year,” Bundy says. She was one of 11 international artists to display work in a recent pop-up gallery at the International Museum of the Horse in Lexington, Ky. While attending the EQUUS Film and Arts Fest in Lexington she reconnected with filmmaker friend Charles Perry. “We had collaborated with a small section of his documentary based on the life of ‘Stagecoach Mary’ Fields,” says Bundy. “She was a lady who was born a slave but ended up with her freedom, which took her to a little town south of where I lived in Montana named Cascade. I etched a scratchboard piece of Mary and her white mule, Moses, called The Trail Behind Us, which has been donated to the Montana Historical Society, in Helena.” Mary was the first black woman awarded a contract to deliver mail for the United States, and with Moses’ help she delivered mail from Cascade to St. Peter’s Mission and surrounding mining camps. The artist’s work captures their bond.
Bundy has also found an audience on social media. “When I am creating a piece, I like to post the work in progress,” she says. “I find that my audience likes to see the progress as well. Once it is completed, I also put it up on my website.
Bundy is represented by three galleries—Artists on Main, in Ennis, Mont.; Kimball Art Center, in Park City, Utah; and Fine Art Editions, in Georgetown, Ky. To see more of her work, visit her website or seek her out on Facebook. WW
This article was published in the October 2020 issue of Wild West.