Cara Van Leuven‘s lifelong obsession with horses is probably like yours — it’s in the blood; it’s an impossible attraction and addiction. At the age of nine, Cara began taking riding lessons and knew, due to the likes of Touch of Class, Big Ben, and Abdullah, she wanted to jump. Throughout middle school and high school, Cara showed in hunters, eventually finding true love in the jumper ring.
Life with horses seemingly ended when Cara left her hometown of Ft. Wayne, Indiana to study photojournalism at Western Kentucky University. Although she did remarkably well with a camera and earned internships every summer working as a photographer at newspapers throughout the country, the loss of horses was marked.
Solace needed to be found so Cara turned to hip hop. Yes, you read that right. When she wasn’t break-dancing, she wrote graffiti in her black book and occasionally on dumpsters and walls. Her love of art wasn’t found so much in art museums, but rather on the side of trains.
After graduating, she spent time in Duluth, Minnesota, and London before settling in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She worked quite a bit in design but could not find comfort in the corporate environment. Eventually, a transfer to St. Louis, Missouri reshaped her lifestyle thanks to the 2008 recession.
One of the last uninhabited lofts in downtown Seattle became her home. It was full of artists who encouraged her to paint. In 2011, Cara created her first painting, a 6’x6′ of two horses embracing. The only work she could find was as a carriage driver which reunited her with horses and reignited the passion that had been dormant for far too long.
The horses in Cara’s oil paintings have exceptionally long legs, reflecting their fragility and the fragility of life. Her work is highly textured and layered, done almost entirely with a pallet knife.
Today, Cara and her husband Tom York, share magical days on a small farm in Highland, Illinois in their 1861 farmhouse. Their life is rich with two warmblood mares, a miniature horse, two border collies, cats, ducks, and geese, and chores that simply don’t end.
When not spending winters in the Ocala area, Cara works on large-scale works in her recently renovated historic building in downtown Vandalia, Illinois. Read more and see more of Cara’s work at www.caravl.com.