Louise Reinagel

Inside Track: Capturing the Spirit

Artist's murals adorn the OBS Building in Ocala.

What started as a simple conversation 13 years ago with the then chairman of Ocala Breeders’ Sale Co. has turned into an extended labor of love for artist Catherine Goldman-Bloomfield – nearly 2,500 square feet of painstaking Thoroughbred painting excellence.

Goldman-Bloomfield is steadily nearing completion of a 14-foot by 38-foot mural that will soon join two others she previously painted that are currently adorning the south wall of the inter-track wagering center on the OBS campus. The latest edition depicts head shots of the three Horse of the Year winners auctioned through OBS – Favorite Trick, Silver Charm, and Skip Away.

“This was Norman Casse’s idea,” said Goldman-Bloomfield, an Ocala resident who has been married 25 years to longtime racing publicist, turf columnist, and advertising entrepreneur David Goldman. “He took me into the ITW building and said he wanted something for behind the betting windows.”

Instead, Goldman-Bloomfield did an about-face and looked at the vast space on the upper wall running between the two large parlor areas. She suggested a series of 14-foot-high murals stretching nearly 180 feet in total length.

“(Casse) said, ‘You can do that?’ I said yes, and I went to work,” said Goldman-Bloomfield, who in 1971 earned a bachelor’s degree in art from California State University at Long Beach. “Mr. Casse has been great to work for. (He) wanders in occasionally … and leaves with a ‘Well, keep on working, kiddo.’ ”

Using a backdrop medium technique she learned from producing even larger murals for ballet productions, Goldman-Bloomfield toils five days a week in a warehouse rented by OBS for the project, transferring elements from a scaled grid drawing she sketched of the horses to the 38-foot mural. Upon completion, the mural, which weighs just 40 pounds, will be installed, hopefully by the end of November.

“The backdrop technique is perfect for creating indoor murals – no one has to put up with me working on their wall,” she said. “It can be folded into a cardboard box for shipping because the paint won’t flake or crack.”

The first mural, completed in 1995, is nearly 98-feet long and depicts 11 racehorses coming out of the far turn of a track. The second, a 38-foot scene of mares and foals, was completed in 1996. She started on the third mural in 1999, working amidst often triple-digit heat in the warehouse during the summer, and leaking roofs whenever it rained hard.

Goldman-Bloomfield studied ballet in her youth (“I can still do two pirouettes en pointe,” she says proudly), and said dance helped her “project the expression, the spirit” in art.

“It is the spirit of horses that I am moved by,” she said. “It is the expression of released energy and an unfettered direction.”

Goldman-Bloomfield at one time drew sketches of horses for The Blood-Horse, hired by former editor-in-chief Ed Bowen in 1981. She’s also done artwork for many catalogs and publications, including the cover of the 1983 Kentucky Derby program. On weekends, she does other art endeavors she is commissioned by various horse owners to do, including the painting of winners on wooden cigar boxes.

Goldman-Bloomfield said her “greatest art patron in Florida” is her husband, whom she married after three dates (including one at the 1983 Kentucky Derby). But she is also grateful to those who commissioned her to do the murals.

“Many thanks and much gratitude to the board of directors of OBS for letting me trudge along and do the finest work I possibly could,” she said.