Cynthia Rigden grew up surrounded by horses and cattle on an 8,000-acre ranch that has been in her family since 1902. Her roots in Arizona and the West are deep. Yet, she doesn’t call herself a “western artist”, rather an artist who comes from the West.
In a profile in “The Equine Image,” she said, “My work isn’t western in the sense that it’s cowboys and Indians shoot-‘em ups. It’s western in the fact that I live here and my animals, my models, are mostly here.” In addition to her renowned sculptures of horses, Rigden is also known for her sculptures of Longhorn cattle.
Rigden believes her long association with horses and cattle gives her work an edge. From her daily contact with the animals, she knows they have distinct personalities, and with her insight into “horse psychology,” Rigden tries to reflect these differences in her art. She says, “I like to catch the subtle attitude of the horse, but I don’t try to romanticize them. I believe the gracefulness and the form of the horse speak for themselves. And if I can capture that in my work, then I’ve captured the essence of horses.”
Though she has been interested in painting since childhood – her grandmother’s watercolors are still known in the Prescott area – her passion for sculpting didn’t emerge until college. “I don’t remember ever wanting to be anything but an artist,” she said. At Arizona State University, the classes she wanted to take were filled so she took a course in sculpting.