Asia Kepka: Horace and Agnes: A Love Story is a personal project about a love affair between a horse and a squirrel (PHOTOS).

The Love Story Between a Squirrel and a Horse, Told in an Adorably Surreal Photo Essay

The Love Story Between a Squirrel and a Horse, Told in an Adorably Surreal Photo Essay

Behold
The Photo Blog
Sept. 24 2014 11:56 AM

The Love Story Between a Squirrel and a Horse, Told in an Adorably Surreal Photo Essay

Accordion.
Accordion. During the summer months, Agnes and Horace enjoy lounging on the davenport singing their favorite Bobby Vinton tunes. Agnes has an exquisite voice. Horace should probably avoid singing, but he plays the accordion so poorly that he drowns out his own voice. It wouldn’t matter to Agnes anyway. She loves listening to Horace no matter what.

Asia Kepka

There’s nothing more heartwarming than a love story between a horse and a squirrel. Asia Kepka didn’t know this at first—her series on the unconventional couple, Horace the horse and Agnes the squirrel, began when a friend brought over two masks. Kepka and her girlfriend Lynn Dowling put them on, gave them names—Agnes is named after Dowling’s late mother; Horace after a Hollywood actor and ex-neighbor of Dowling. Kepka then set up a camera to take a photograph of the couple seated on a red couch enjoying some accordion music. 

“I’m always drawn to older people and coming up with characters,” Kepka said. “So when I saw them I thought of them as a lovely middle-aged couple who had fallen in love.”

Dowling began writing the imagined backstories about the pair: They met on a train, enjoy a lively social life, like to travel and play music. Kepka said that, over the course of the subsequent year, roughly 100 images and stories have been added to the series they titled “Horace and Agnes: A Love Story.” It helps that Kepka sees her house as one big stage and is open to developing new story lines from just about anything.

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“I’ve got a huge collection of clothing—my house is kind of like a theater,” Kepka said. “Some people call it hoarding, but I call it collections.”

“You never know what you’ll be fascinated or stimulated by. When you see an object, an entire story can evolve from it.”

A lot has evolved from that first shoot. Friends have expressed a desire to participate, new characters have appeared, a Facebook page was started, exhibitions planned, and a prototype of a book created. 

Pleasant Valley.
Pleasant Valley. Horace and Agnes were looking to get an early start after their motel stay in Pleasant Valley but Agnes is still poking around the room. When she finally emerges, he curiously asks her what she’s been up to. “I’ve been making the bed and tidying up the room, of course,” she answers. Horace looks up and says, “Dear, I think they have people to do that.” Agnes reaches back and closes the door behind her. “I know Horace, but I don‘t want them to think we are pigs.”

Asia Kepka

Teacups.
Teacups.

Asia Kepka

Friends Have Flaws.
Friends Have Flaws. Agnes’ oldest friend Bertie likes to drop in unannounced, and it’s usually around mealtime. Bertie always has the latest gossip and follows up each story with “but don’t tell anyone.” Horace mostly plays bystander when the ladies are in their element, though he does notice that no matter how much food is on the table, Bertie’s fork always wanders over to his plate. He's tried to address this with Agnes but she just smiles sweetly and says, “Oh Horace, friends have flaws ... eat faster next time.”

Asia Kepka

The chaos and lightness from the project has been a welcome release for Kepka. Around 10 years ago, she began a series titled “Bridget and I” with a mannequin she found on eBay. Her life during that period was turbulent and confusing filled with passionate affairs and subsequent breakups. She then suffered a series of painful losses, including one of her best friends and both of her grandmothers with whom she was very close and who were living in her native Poland. In hindsight, Kepka said, the melancholic feel of “Bridget and I” was a visual diary, a reflection on where she was feeling during that emotional period. Using photography was helpful in allowing her to recognize what was happening to her.

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“I was in my thirties and the life I imagined a long time ago wasn’t happening,” she said. “I longed to be a mother and have a family and I was trying to figure out my role as a woman and as an artist.” Using the mannequin “was only a vehicle to tell the story in a more dynamic sense. I could have done them by myself but when you have two characters you have more flexibility in creating a more dynamic narrative.”

After nearly 10 years working on “Bridget and I,” Kepka said it was time to move on and she was ready to begin a new chapter in life. And then, suddenly, a horse and squirrel mask appeared and the opportunity presented itself. 

People Watching. Agnes, get a load of that guy over there. What in the world…" Horace is dispatching running commentary as they wait for the 424 bus. Agnes is exhausted after a full day of sightseeing and can't wait to get off her feet. "Horace dear, don't be unkind." “C'mon Agnes," Horace moans. "The best part of coming to the city is people watching." ”That's true Sweetheart, but don‘t forget, they‘re looking at you too.” "What's wrong with me?" Horace asks sadly. "Luckily nothing...because I pick out all your clothes," Agnes says nonchalantly while peering out for the bus.
People Watching. “Agnes, get a load of that guy over there. What in the world?” Horace is dispatching running commentary as they wait for the 424 bus. Agnes is exhausted after a full day of sightseeing and can’t wait to get off her feet. “Horace dear, don't be unkind.” “C’mon Agnes,” Horace moans. “The best part of coming to the city is people watching.” “That's true Sweetheart, but don’t forget, they’re looking at you too.” “What’s wrong with me?” Horace asks sadly. “Luckily nothing ... because I pick out all your clothes,” Agnes says nonchalantly while peering out for the bus.

Asia Kepka

Ferris.
Ferris Twig. Downtown at the federal courthouse there is a stenotype operator named Ferris Twig. He’s obsessed with mob-related cases like racketeering and extortion—he just can’t get enough. His hope is to one-day write a best-selling crime novel. Every Thursday, during his lunch break, Ferris races to the theater to catch the matinees.

Asia Kepka

“What helps me to survive is comedy,” she said. “It’s a medicine. It’s very important to create work that has depth and also a sense of humor. There is so much serious and difficult work out there and there is a need for something that makes people warm up a bit.”

“Horace and Agnes: A Love Story” will be on view at the Griffin Museum at SoWa in Boston beginning Sept. 25.

Catching Agnes.
Catching Agnes.

Asia Kepka

Red Rock Canyon.
Red Rock Canyon.

Asia Kepka

David Rosenberg is the editor of Slate’s Behold blog. He has worked as a photo editor for 15 years and is a tennis junkie. Follow him on Twitter.