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Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Puppy You Can Drive My Car
Connie Townsend paints dogs with charm and humor.
Yesterday afternoon, I was introduced to the art of Connie Townsend, an artist who, like me, lives in Flagstaff, Ariz. Since then, I have talked to a number of friends, all of whom were literally shocked that this discovery was new to me. First of all, her art is all over town. Second of all, I work with dogs. And third, a big article about Connie and her work just came out in a local publication this spring. Sigh. I’ve got to get out more! Now that I know of her work, I don’t want anyone else to miss out.   Many of her images show dogs riding around in or driving cars, and all of them are filled with fun. What really caught my attention was the realistic way that she depicts their faces. When a dog leans out the window and the wind is hitting his face, the relaxed face, open mouth, flapping ears and shiny eyes look so authentic, as do the expressions of all her canine characters. It’s that emotional realism in scenes of great imagination and humor that combine to make her paintings memorable.
News: Guest Posts
Painting Dogs and Tweeting
Meet Twitter contest winner, Rachael Rossman.

Sometimes it feels like the Internet—especially, the sliver carved out by dog-lovers—is just one big off-leash area. Return a stranger’s poached tennis ball, and you’re likely to hear a fascinating dog story or discover another dog entrepreneur. So I shouldn’t be surprised that a random drawing for a Bark goodie bag from among our first 50 followers on Twitter would surface someone like Rachael Rossman.

Rossman paints watercolor pet portraits in Salem, Oregon. But she’s no lonely, tech-phobic recluse. In fact, she brings a whole lotta social-networking savvy to her art. One of her biggest gets was landing a spot on MarthaStewart.com with an un-commissioned painting of the doyenne’s French bulldogs, Sharkey and Francesca. More recently, Rossman painted a portrait of Bo Obama, which she promptly sent to the White House as a gift. No word back on that, but she likes the idea that it might be sitting on Michelle Obama’s desk at this very moment.

“I have been an artist all my life in one capacity or another,” she says. “But it wasn’t until a few years ago that my passion for painting was fully realized.” For many years, Rossman was a competitive equestrian, participating in hunter/jumper shows throughout the Northwest. When her first child was born and she gave up daily rides, she started using her art to live out her equestrian dreams vicariously.

“I started painting horse show scenes and then people started asking me to paint portraits of their horses,” she says. “Horse people usually have one or two dogs around the barn and they began asking for portraits of them too.”

Since then, some choice mentions in blogs, and on Facebook and Twitter have added some gas to the enterprise. But the artist’s passion is still very much there, especially when it comes to painting dogs’ eyes. “Each dog’s eyes tell a story,” she says. “I usually wait until the last minute to paint the eyes. I don’t know why, because it’s a real risk. If you don’t get them just right, it’s just not the same.”

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Learning About Pets Through Art
AKC teams up with The Cat Fanciers' Association for kids art contest.

The American Kennel Club and The Cat Fanciers' Association are teaming up for an art contest to celebrate dogs and cats. Open to school children between the ages of 6 and 18 in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, the competition celebrates the diversity of pets and why we love them.

 

Besides the usual categories like Best in Show and Best of Breed, others awards will be given for best depiction of a dog’s job (i.e., a Border Collie herding), a dog’s country of origin (i.e., a Shiba Inu in Japan), a dog participating in an AKC event (i.e,. a Golden Retriever doing Rally obedience), and the human/animal bond (i.e., a Smooth Fox Terrier doing a therapy visit).

 

The winners will be awarded Visa gift cards and rosettes and the artwork will be displayed at the Meet the Breeds event in New York City on October 17-18. Submissions will be accepted until August 15.

 

It’s definitely interesting to see the collaboration between the AKC and CFA and I’m excited to see the artwork, particularly the pieces on the human/animal bond. This contest is a great opportunity for kids to learn about what dogs were originally bred to do and what they’re capable of doing with their owners.

News: Guest Posts
Tattoo You
A loving tribute that’s more than skin deep.

Last spring, I wrote a story about dog tattoos, or more precisely, people who have tattoos—usually portraits—of their dogs. I was awed by the variety and beauty of these tributes. After we ran the story, I received so many wonderful photos of tattoos (which we posted on our old blog over the following weeks). Honestly, for a while there, I began to feel like I was writing for a dog-tattoo blog—so did a few less enthusiastic readers. So at the risk of exciting their ire once again, I have to share this latest tattoo from Elisa Bolvari, a loyal reader for the last eight years. Here’s what Elisa wrote about her tattto:

"It is a memorial to six canine friends I had the pleasure to live with during my life and who are now waiting for me on the other side (where I believe they are indeed joyful). My Dogs humble me—their freely shared love, unbridled joy of each day and willingness to share the most treasured, dirty, wet prize makes my heart swell. I thank them for truly being my Co-Pilots."

Her tattoo designer and artist was Mark Duhan of Skin Deep Ink Tattoo in New Milford, Conn. According to Elisa, Mark is also a dog lover, who “neva met a dog I didn’t like.”

I don’t have any tattoos myself—a soul-curdling fear of needles being one central reason—but when I see a work like Elisa’s and hear about her inspiration, I can almost imagine it. Almost.

 

News: Guest Posts
Picasso’s Dog
Begging for scraps in the Cubist style

When I lived in New York, I had the good fortune to visit a few museums in the company of Thomas Hoving, the former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. With him, there was no slow shuffling past endless works, dedicating a minute or two to each. Instead we hoofed through galleries intent on a destination, with Hoving discouraging us from taking in the sights along the way. Then we’d arrive at the pre-selected work, with fresh eyes, and spend time, lots of it, taking in one piece. I learned that one masterpiece appreciated deeply is, for me, a richer experience than taking in many works superficially. To this day, that’s how I do most big museums.

What’s this got to do with Bark? Well, if you live anywhere near Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven, Conn., consider taking the Hoving-approach to their current Picasso exhibition. Leave most of the 70 works to the others, and spend some serious time with his wonderful 1921 Cubist dog painting—“Dog and Cock.”

A pointy-eared pooch with fringy fur sniffs at the edge of a fully loaded dinner table. Tongue out. Not only do we see this scene played out more than we’d like in our own homes, dogs begging at banquets are a long artistic tradition. The light humor of this familiar moment makes appreciating Picasso’s Cubist technique a total delight.

Learn more about Bark’s take on this masterwork in the May 2009 issue. “Picasso and the Allure of Language” runs through May 24 at the Yale University Art Gallery, Chapel and York Streets, New Haven.

Bonus Track: Picasso was no stranger to the habits of dogs. He shared his life with many including Lump the Dachshund, an Afghan Hound named Kabul, and a Boxer named Jan. To see fantastic images of Pablo Picasso and his canine confrères, check out David Douglas Duncan’s online Picasso gallery.

News: Guest Posts
Man’s Best Muse
Don't miss Mascot Studio’s 10th Annual Dog Show

If your Big Apple pupster enjoys a little high culture, perambulate on down to New York City’s dog-friendly East Village. Through March 21, Mascot Studio (328 E. Ninth St.) celebrates man’s best muse with its 10th Annual Dog Show—featuring canine-themed oils, watercolors, illustrations, photography and collage by artists including studio owner Peter McCaffrey, Anne Watkins and Luba Jane Blatman (both of whom have graced Bark’s pages), Laura Sue Philips, June Moss, Anthony Freda, Jane O’Hara, Irit Cohen, Eric Ginsburg, Sebastian Piras, Aaron Meshon and selected vintage works. Look for the Cave Canem shingle with the mascot’s mug, inspired by Pete the Pup of Our Gang fame. Open Tues.-Sat., 1-7 p.m.

 

News: Editors
Surreal Canines And Other Critters

A chance to experience first-hand the wonderful paintings of the preeminent California painter, Roy De Forest, is not to be missed. His surreal mindscapes filled with dogs, horses, birds and people resonate with bright colors, thick paint and mythic tales. De Forest is loosely grouped together with 60’s Funk art, yet his vision stands alone in its originality. His paintings attain something rare—inspiring joy, laughter, awe and sheer delight.

 

DETAILS: Painting the Big Painting runs January 8–February 28 at Brian Gross Fine Art, San Francisco, Calif.

 

Discover nine more not-to-be-missed exhibits in 2009.

 

News: Editors
10 Not-to-be-Missed Exhibits in 2009

The convergence of art and canines can yield thrilling results—a visual feast, an engaging tutorial of ideas, unadulterated fun. The new year brings a host of intriguing exhibitions to museums across the country—There’s something to satisfy every taste: the traditionalist, the modernist, the academic and even the I-don’t-like-museum types.

1. Vernacular Photography Fair; January 10–11; Santa Monica, CA
Found photography or anonymous imagery is a photographic genre that’s making inroads into museums and collections. Snapshots are a part of American life and memory, and among these rediscovered treasures, you’ll often find man’s best friend. Best of all, vernacular photography remains an affordable collectible (check out the $5 bins!), and this gathering of dealers offers a dose of nostalgic bliss.

2. Roy De Forest: Painting the Big Painting; January 8–February 28; Brian Gross Fine Art; San Francisco, CA
A chance to experience first-hand the wonderful paintings of this preeminent California painter is not to be missed. De Forest’s surreal mindscapes filled with dogs, horses, birds and people resonate with bright colors, thick paint and mythic tales. De Forest is loosely grouped together with 60’s Funk art, yet his vision stands alone in its originality. De Forest’s paintings attain something rare—inspiring joy, laughter, awe and sheer delight.

3. Pets in America; September 13, 2008–February 1; Stamford Museum & Nature Center; Stamford, CT
This thought-provoking exhibition explores the bond between people and animals, and the history of pet-keeping. The collection of more than 300 objects includes pet attire, feeding and housing implements, pet remedies, and a coat and collar made for President Roosevelt’s dog, Fala. Developed in support of research by Professor Katherine C. Grier, the show is both scholarly and entertaining, examining the impact pet-keeping has had on ideas on human nature, emotional life, individual responsibility and societal obligations.

4. The Beauty of the Beasts: Artists and their Pets in 20th-Century Art; January 7–March 16; Art Institute of Chicago; Chicago, IL
This survey includes a diverse selection of works, from Renaissance sculpture to modernists Frida Kahlo and Pablo Picasso, connected by their love of animals and works featuring their pets. See how companion dogs worked their way into the art of Caravaggio and the canvases of Pierre Bonnard, and created the phenomenon known as the Blue Dog. Yes, there are propositions on symbolism, allegories and the like, but these aesthetic mash-ups are really an excuse for some fun and surprising pairings—where else could you see Frida’s monkey share a room with Cellini’s shaggy dog?

5. Pierre Bonnard: The Late Interiors; January 27–April 19; The Metropolitan Museum of Art; New York, NY
A rare exhibition focusing on the post-Impressionist Pierre Bonnard’s (1867–1947) late interior and still life paintings. The 8o paintings, drawings and watercolors are radiant, glowing with the warmth of their Mediterranean locale. Bonnard’s beloved Dachshunds are present in a handful of the best works, curled up next to a bath, sitting at the table, asleep in a corner. These paintings capture a distant time and place, melding a Proustian sensibility with an Impressionist’s palette.

6. Dog Days Auction Sale; February 10; Bonhams New York; New York, NY
This annual event coincides with the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, and features antique paintings, decorative arts and collectibles with a dog breed theme. The quality of the pieces ranges greatly—from masterwork to kitsch—but all are fascinating in their historical context if not always in their aesthetic merit. Who can resist a painting like this year’s prized item—Arthur John Elsley’s One at a Time (1901)—which depicts a Terrier and a Collie vying for the affections of a rosy-cheeked, bonneted young girl? Bonham’s hosts a popular Sunday brunch-benefit on February 8; check for other viewing opportunities and the online catalog.

7. Paws and Reflect: Art of Canines; January 31–March 29; The Spartanburg Art Museum; Spartanburg, SC; April 26–June 14, 2009;
New Visions Gallery, Marshfield, WI; July 4–August 30, 2009;
Elizabeth de C. Wilson Museum, Southern Vermont Arts Center,
Manchester, VT
This traveling exhibition, which includes paintings, watercolors and sculptures created in the realist manner, will appeal to the traditionalist art lover. Works by over 30 artists from around the country, extraordinary technique and respect for the subject matter are the themes of the day. Among the highlights are several life-size bronze sculptures.

8. It’s a Dog’s Life: Photographs by William Wegman from the Polaroid Collection; January 18–April 12; Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art; Tarpon Springs, FL
For those only familiar with Wegman’s photographs from books and magazines, these large-format images—with their saturated color and vivid detail—will be a welcome surprise.  The subjects are well-known: his Weimaraner pack of models in zany costumes, posed in studies of form and abstractionthe artist’s special brand of visual puns. The scale and presence of these oversized “instant snapshots” are impressive. The fact that Polaroid has discontinued making its trademarked film adds a particular poignancy to this exhibit.

9. Francis Bacon: A Centenary Retrospective; May 20–August 16; The Metropolitan Museum of Art; New York, NY
The first major New York exhibition in 20 years devoted to one of the most important painters of the 20th century, this is a major event. Featuring 153 works spanning the artist’s oeuvre, it’s likely to be a rewarding and exhaustive experience. We expect to see at least a few of Bacon’s paintings of dogs based on the photographs of Eadweard Muybridge’s famous locomotion studies. The paintings are studies of malevolence, power and horror—themes the artist grappled with throughout his career. These early paintings are monumental in their dark moodiness, primal in their elicitation of emotion. Do what you can to see them.

10. Darwin: Big Idea, Big Exhibition; November 14, 2008–April 19, 2009; Natural History Museum; London, England; November 7, 2009–February 28, 2010; San Diego Natural History Museum; San Diego, CA
Celebrate the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin, the great thinker whose revolutionary theory changed our understanding of the world. Besides sailing on a ship of discovery named the HMS Beagle, Darwin was a lover of dogs, and his observations of them informed his theories on evolution, species classification and animal behavior. The exhibition is rich with specimens and artifacts, including letters and publications that illustrate Darwin’s life and the lasting impact of his ideas. The seeds of canine genetics can be seen sprinkled throughout the collection. The exhibition celebrates Darwin’s birthday (February 12) and ends on the 127th anniversary of his death, moving on to the San Diego Natural History Museum.

 

Have a recommendation for a dog-themed exhibit? Share it with our readers by posting a comment below.

News: Guest Posts
First Puppy Biz Makes New Yorker Cover

Controversial New Yorker cartoonist Barry Blitt provides a learning opportunity re: "vetting" with his Obama and the dogs cover this week. (Thanks to Media Bistro and William Safire.) It's amazing how much press traction this not-quite-cabinet-level pick continues to receive. Meanwhile you gotta love the mixed-breed look of the big, gray dog in Blitt's tableau--a vote for mutts?

Culture: DogPatch
Gauguin: The Ultimate Global Traveler

Paul Gauguin, who seemed to be running away to an “elsewhere,” lived an extraordinary life. In doing so, he helped craft an almost mythological image of himself, an image that inspired the title of a current exhibit at the National Gallery of Art: “Gauguin: Maker of Myth.” In writing about it for the New York Times, Holland Cotter characterized the artist as “a dreadful man who made some beautiful art.” Perhaps because of this, much has been written about Gauguin by art historians, critics, novelists, biographers (including his son) and himself (in his memoirs); even a couple of operas. All have tried to understand how an untrained former sailor, stockbroker and world traveler could create such a remarkable body of work. Perhaps the most likely explanation comes from the artist himself: “My life has always been very restless and uneven. In me [are] a great many mixtures.”

Born in 1848, he had an unconventional ancestry. A grandmother from Peru was an early French feminist; his father was an outspoken journalist who in 1849 fled Paris for Lima with his family, and died during the voyage. The family stayed on in Peru, living with an eccentric and powerful great-uncle, the country’s last Spanish viceroy. When Gauguin was six, the family returned to France. As one biographer noted, “in his exotic and restless childhood lies the explanation for the adult painter’s attraction to distant lands.”

Gauguin enlisted in the French merchant navy at 17, and spent the next six years at sea. By 1872, he was a Parisian stockbroker with a secure bourgeois life and a Danish wife (they had five children over the course of 10 years). During this time, he also began dabbling in art, both as a collector and an amateur Sunday-afternoon painter. His star rose quickly. In 1874, he met Camille Pissarro, and by ’76, his work was exhibited with other artists; three years later, Degas and Pissarro invited him to show his work in the Fourth Impressionist Exhibition. Throughout this time, Gauguin continued to be employed as a stockbroker. In 1883, he abandoned his career after a market crash and became a full-time artist, a decision not endorsed by his wife.

He moved to Brittany (sans family), where many artists had flocked. Here, he distanced himself from the Impressionists—too imitative for him— and set out to forge a new approach, tapping into a rural, more “primitive” culture. Gauguin experimented with a style called “Synthétisme,” which emphasized two-dimensional, flat, fundamental patterns. An early example of this can be seen in Harvest: Le Pouldu, which was said to feature Gauguin’s own dog. He was also influenced by Emile Bernard’s “Cloisonnism”— flat areas of color with bold outlines (see Still Life with Three Puppies). Throughout his experimentation with different compositional styles, he remained obsessed with his favorite theme: the unity of man and nature. That focus led him to adopt (some say “create”) the Primitivism style that reached its apogee in his work from Tahiti.

Not content with his progress within the confines of the French art world, and seeking “to have peace and quiet, to be rid of the influence of civilization … to produce something new … to return to the original source, to the childhood of mankind,” he moved to Tahiti in 1891. Many of the paintings for which he is best known followed. Often, as with his earlier work, they included dogs, such as in Arearea and Tahitian Pastorals. But his masterpiece, painted in 1897–98, Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?, best expresses his struggles with the fundamental meaning of existence. By then syphilitic, penniless and suicidal, Gauguin created this work after receiving news of his daughter’s death. It was his largest piece — painted on sackcloth strips that he had stitched together — and he instructed that it be read from right to left; the black dog at the far right, above the infant, was said to represent the artist.

He died in 1903, already a legend to the avant-garde back in Paris, but this recognition was unbeknownst to him.

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