Famous for her cowboy boots and western-themed work, the artist, who left a post as a mail carrier in Westhampton Beach two years ago after years of dedicated service, has turned her eye toward helping horses find new life.
To that end, Deurschmidt is painting up a storm at Spirit's Promise Horse Rescue on Sound Avenue in Riverhead.
Deurschmidt is working on a facade on the parcel, which includes a painting of a western town, complete with a jail, saloon, barber shop and hotel.
The facade will be used for a fundraiser to be held for Spirit's Promise on Oct. 20 from noon to 8 p.m. The event will feature six bands and food from Cody's, and costs $50 per person.
It's the first time the artist has created large scale murals, she said. "It's great."
For inspiration, Deurschmidt said she only has to peek inside her closet, where her "whole motif" is western. "I'm a cowboy at heart," she said. "This is right up my alley."
But what's even more meaningful, she said, is working to help rescue horses.
"I always wanted to have a horse as a little girl, but I never did," she said. "I'm just thrilled to be here."
The work is especially fulfilling, Deurschmidt said, after losing her dear friend of 22 years, Pego Parr, recently. "I feel as though I'm being healed. This is a good project to delve into, to keep my mind occupied."
Healing is the focus of the horse rescue, created by Marisa Striano Charles and her husband, Jeff, who founded Spirit's Promise Horse Rescue three years ago, when they moved to the area from Port Washington, where they had two horses and were spending lots of money on a stable.
"We thought, 'Let's move to a farm,'" Charles said.
Charles said she's enthralled with Deurschmidt's work.
"She's fabulous," she said. "I love her. And her overalls should be donated to the Smithsonian."
Funds raised at the event will be used toward helping the rescued horses. Charles said equine therapy is practiced at Spirit's Promise. "We have a lot of people that just stop by in tears because they are drawn to horses."
Charles said she has been working with the Assisted Growth and Learning Association, to become an equine specialist.
"Horses are such great healers and teachers," she said. Her mission, she added, is to help people to understand the value of the horse, and the impact horses can have on human lives.
"We had a woman here whose son committed suicide at 24," she said. "My horse, Pirate, who is very, very quite and afraid -- and who watched his whole family go onto a truck headed to the slaughter house -- came up to her and put his nose on her shoulder. We were all crying. This horse doesn't make those connections."
She added, "That is what we are giving back to the community. Peace."The horror of horse slaughter motivated Charles to take a stand. "If people from the pioneer times came back now and saw what we are doing to the horses that helped to create America, they'd be sick," she said.
Charles said her journey began when she sent her horse Spirit, who was sick, to her good friend, Christine Distefano, founder of the Amaryllis Farm Equine Rescue and Sanctuary in Bridgehampton. While being rehabbed, the horse made friends with another horse at the rescue organization, Promise. "That's where our name came from, Spirit's Promise," she said.
At first, Charles and her husband began by rescuing horses and utilized their own funds. Next, they became a 501(c) non-profit organization.
The plan, Charles, said, is to work with the Stony Brook Cancer Center to bring equine therapy to patients. "Horses that have been rescued are very compassionate," Charles said. "They're very empathetic creatures."
Charles hopes to create a program for breast cancer patients to groom horses; the brushing, she said, will serve as therapy -- and the horses will nurture battered souls. "They can come to feed and groom horses and wash them," Charles said. "It's very therapeutic. The motion of stoking the horses as part of physical therapy -- it's a dual thing. Instead of just going to the gym, you are loving a beautiful soul, a horse that would love you for it. There's an emotional connection -- horses are very spiritual."
Charles not only rescues horses, the family's farm is home to roosters, chickens, donkeys and a dog. "I'm the kind of person that saves bugs," Charles said. "Animals are the true innocents of the world -- they depend on us. I became the voice of the voiceless."
Horses, she said, "need so much help." The issue of horse slaughter is one about which many remain unaware, Charles said. "If you walk through the mall and ask people what they know about horse slaughter, they have no idea."
Two horses, Tracy and Star Luna, went to the slaughter lot together. "They wouldn't leave each other's side," she said. "They screamed for each other. They had to be rescued together." Only now, three years later, can the pair bear to be separated at times.
For Charles, the horse rescue has opened the door to a new life. Having loved horses since childhood, she said, "I was 42 and I thought, 'What am I going to do with my life?' I wanted to make a difference."
And now, in horse rescue, Charles has found her passion. "It's a wonderful, wonderful life."