When art history professor Jave Yoshimoto received the phone call to be one of the featured artists at Horses of Honor Omaha, he got right to work.
“I love my job and I want to do my department proud, so I was more than happy to jump on board,” he said.
Horses of Honor is a public art campaign to honor police officers who have been killed or catastrophically injured in the line of duty. It started in Chicago in 2014 and this year is the first time Omaha will serve as a host.
There will be eight horses paying tribute to Omaha’s fallen police officers. Each statue was designed by an Omaha artist. They will stand in Turner Park at Midtown Crossing for a year before being auctioned off.
Yoshimoto’s horse is honoring the late Greg Hamill, a former detective and 12-year veteran of the Omaha Police Department. Hamill passed away from complications of the H1N1 strain of influenza in 2014. He was 43.
Yoshimoto reached out to Hamill’s family to see what kind of elements they wanted to be incorporated into the piece. He received a Bible verse and a picture of the Celtic cross, which Hamill had tattooed on his back.
“The rest is my understanding of visual symbolism,” he added.
I love my job and I want to do my department proud, so I was more than happy to jump on board.
- Jave Yoshimoto, UNO art professor
Yoshimoto did all of the work on the life-size horse right in his own office. After a few days of brainstorming he had his idea for a theme. Each aspect pays tribute to the officer, his background, the department for which he served, and his movement on to the afterlife.
To symbolize the afterlife, Yoshimoto painted a sunset across the horse. He read that some cultures use the crow as a symbol of a carrier to the afterlife, which is why he painted a crow flying towards the sunset.
He chose the buffalo, a sign of strength, as the centerpiece because the animal is depicted on all Omaha police officers’ badges, and it has been since 1941. And, of course, the Omaha skyline serves as a nod to the city the officer spent his life serving.
“It has to tell a story and it has to all connect, to the region to department to the police officer,” said Yoshimoto.