Review – Horse Latitudes by Chris Wilson

Horse Latitudes by Chris Wilson / Sorika / 978-0957557307 / 92 pages

Horse Latitudes by Chris WilsonHorse Latitudes is a small gem of a book, bound in white covers illustrated with a painting. It is strikingly beautiful, with a very clean, minimalist design.

But much of its author’s life has been anything but clean and filled with beauty.

Instead, most of the first four decades of Chris Wilson’s life were filled to the brim with turmoil and self-destruction. After spending his youngest childhood years in a coastal East African city, the family moved to the United States, where he had a troubled adolescence. As an adult, entangled in drugs and crime, he wound up in prison – more than once.

These story of Wilson’s life is clearly written but hard to read. It’s the sort of life one thinks must be devoid of much hope – one of those which so often devolves into more and more drugs and despair, until it finally fizzles to a frayed, sorry end.

But it didn’t. Wilson eventually was released from prison, sent back to his native UK. More, crime. ugliness.

And then, over forty years into his life, an epiphany. He eventually got clean, gave up drugs and crime. He found art, got a degree from the Chelsea College of Art and Design. And, eventually wrote his story. Not only skilled at art, Wilson also found a talent for fashioning words into sentences, usually long, fast-paced sentences that get right to the heart of it.

Wilson deftly, quickly, and matter-of-factly moves us through the years of his life, unflinchingly giving us the pertinent, graphic details. You won’t like those details, but you probably also won’t be able to put the book down.

There is a lyrical quality to his words:

…or the time you tried to kick smack on angel dust and you stood naked on the bed staring at the mirror convinced you could peel the skin from your head to your toes and anew creature would emerge shining and pink andd free and how you walked out of the motel took a left and disappeared into another world that turned the piss of Sixth and Mission into the fragrance of roses…

And he did get straight, but no, it’s not all rainbows and daisies from there on out. Recovery is no picnic, and as in every life, there’s struggle, pain even when you’re on the right track. But life becomes better – and there is hope and growth.

Horse Latitudes includes 16 glossy, full-color reproductions of Wilson’s work, with titles like “Gabriel,” St. Genet,” “PCP,” “Midnight Rambler, “Pop Gun Robbery.” These manifestations of the artist’s inner self feature figures who look directly at the viewer, or, with tilted heads, at something distant. The eyes, full of hurt, honesty, hope, complexity. They are looking for something. The figures are often white, but sometimes filled with Chagall-like color and luminosity. The backgrounds are saturated, full of symbols and mystery and memory and light.

Horse Latitudes is Chris Wilson’s story. Like his art, it’s not all pretty, but it’s real and it’s all his own – and it’ll stay with you a good long time.

Horse Latitudes is available for purchase from the publisher, Sorika.

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