HOT SPRINGS | Over the past year, a unique kind of art has been popping up around Hot Springs. Wire sculptures have shown up at art shows, fundraisers and in local businesses.
These statues are the product of Hot Springs resident, Mark Horton.
Born and raised in Wyoming, Horton joined the Navy at 17. As a Navy corpsman, he traveled around the world.
He became a surgical first assistant for 27 years, starting his own company, Horton Surgical Assisting. Eighteen months ago, he moved from Colorado to Hot Springs for a change of pace.
In his first months here, he came down with a bad case of the flu. To pass the time while he was sick, he began bending coat hangers into different shapes.
A friend suggested he enter some of the work into an art show at the VA 11 months ago. He wound up winning.
Though his background isn't necessarily in art, Horton has always had a creative bug. He also draws on some of his past experience to inform is art.
"Working in surgery gave me a real sense of organization with tools, instruments and anticipation, but it also gave me a lot of opportunity to learn how to learn to work with instruments," he said.
Horton said the art scene in Hot Springs is a perfect place for a new artist.
"Hot Springs is such a great place to do this in, there is such a great art culture here," he said.
After working on smaller pieces for a while, Horton decided to tackle something bigger: A 6-foot-long, 4-foot-high mammoth sculpture.
"It took about six weeks. I had it hanging from the ceiling like the chassis of a car," he said.
The mammoth won several awards and now is hanging at Woolly's Grill and Cellar.
In March, Horton was asked to make a piece for the Boys and Girls Club of the Black Hills annual Mount Rushmore fundraiser. He created a bison using regional materials like barbed wire, bailing wire and fence posts. It was a similar size to the mammoth. The piece, named Thunder, was the fundraisers' top item at auction, fetching an impressive $6,000.
In many of Horton's critters, you can see a small heart inside. After working with wire for a while, he found heart shapes often appeared.
Projects are not limited to real animals, or animals at all. Horton tackles almost anything that comes his way. He's made unicorns, flying pigs, trees, crosses and three dimensional block letters of USMC for area veterans.
Horton said he appreciates all of the support he's received.
"I'm really grateful to give people something they enjoy," he said.
The finished products are impressive, but the process is important for Horton, as well.
"I found it was really meditative. I loved thinking about how everything was going to go together."
Horton plans to continue to challenge himself with his art, incorporating new materials, techniques and themes into his work. He is working with local woodworker, Adam Horton (no relation) to create some dynamic collaborative pieces.
A website and Facebook page are still in the works. Much of Horton's art can be seen at Mornin' Sunshine Coffee House on North River Street in Hot Springs.