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Culture: DogPatch
On View: Paul Howard Manship
Paul Howard Manship Art

For a 30-year period beginning just after World War I, Paul Howard Manship (1885–1966) was lauded as one of America’s premier sculptors. Born and raised in St. Paul, Minn., Manship looked to the classical past for both inspiration and subject matter while exploring the modernistic stylings of what would become Art Deco.

Manship’s sculpture entitled Indian Hunter and His Dog reflects his signature Archaic style, depicting an idealized youth running full stride, carrying arrows in his right hand and a bow in his left, accompanied by his dog. The figure’s pose, mask-like expression and act of leading with his left foot recall the Greek kouros (young male) figure, modeled with a streamlined modernity.

This miniature bronze was a study for a life-size sculpture commissioned by Thomas Cochran to be installed outdoors at Cochran Park in St. Paul, where it resides today. Currently, the miniature sculpture is included in The American West in Bronze, 1850–1925, an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, through April 13, 2014. With 65 bronze sculptures by 28 artists, the exhibition explores the popularity of statuettes with Western themes. Artists represented include Manship, James Earle Fraser, Frederick William MacMonnies, Frederic Remington, Charles M. Russell and Charles Schreyvogel, among others.

For more information visit metmuseum.org.

Culture: DogPatch
Textile Sculptures
British crafter Donya Coward’s beaded, lacey creations.
Wall-mounted head: top, Greyhound;

Ten years ago, Donya Coward was a recent graduate of the knitwear fashion design program at Nottingham Trent University (UK). On a lark, she made some brooches from odd scraps she had lying around. Next came a children’s story illustrated with fabric faces. But her craft and career path really soared when she started to make full-blown animal sculptures that she refers to as “textile taxidermy.”

These eco-friendly, three-dimensional works are constructed with layers of knit and crochet and completed by a fine “skin” of embroidery and beading. When describing her process, Coward emphasizes her use of “antique, vintage and up-cycled haberdashery, laces, fabrics and embroideries,” and adds that, for her, “it is important to preserve the craftsmanship and skills of days gone and give them a new identity.”

She certainly has made her mark with her intricate and lovely dog heads, banners and full-sized figures. She takes commissions, and all her work is done by hand—definitely well worth the wait they might require.

Culture: DogPatch
The Frisky Series: Family Dog

Frisky, my inspiration for Dog Humiliation, Humiliated Dog, was a former boyfriend’s childhood pet. When he was in junior high and high school, the boyfriend— Mike Marer, drummer for the punk band Bad Posture—enjoyed taking photographs and had assembled several albums’ worth featuring his dog. There was something endearing, mundane and fascinating about the number of pictures of Frisky he had taken—maybe because it was such a stark contrast to his onstage punk persona. I laid out his photos in a group of four and titled it “The Frisky Series.” When I showed it to him, he said, “All right … Frisky, man. Hey … wait a minute! You’re making fun of her!” It took a bit of explaining, but he understood finally that it was more tender than that. He adored that dog.

Culture: DogPatch
Wegman's World
Behind the scenes with the artist, his family and the dogs.
William Wegman out for a row with his dogs. See more images of William Wegman in our slideshow.

If you’re a dog and you’re waiting for the Director of Fun to wake up, you’d best find a suitable distraction, because William Wegman is still in bed. Early on a morning shrouded by a dense Maine fog, two-year-old Flo and one-year-old Topper make their way to the kitchen to scarf down healthy servings of oatmeal, freshly cooked for them by the artist’s wife, Christine Burgin.

The dogs are Burgin’s regular breakfast companions, until the pair return to bed, to snuggle up to Wegman and the family’s two older dogs, Candy and Bobbin, 13, and 14, respectively. Before the day gets underway in earnest, these extra few minutes of sleep are a sweet luxury. The dogs had already awakened once before dawn, with Wegman corralling the whole pack for a quick pee and a sniff, then back up to bed.

How the commotion of four large dogs and one regular-sized human arranging themselves on the bed doesn’t wake Burgin is a bit of a mystery. But then, so much of what goes on at the Wegman household seems like some kind of unusual ballet. There’s a gentle flow to the movements here, and the lake’s broad, shimmering expanses of water and the sparkling light lend it all a distinctly idyllic feel.

It’s no wonder that Wegman and his family spend a considerable chunk of both summer and winter at their rustic retreat in the Rangeley Lakes Region of western Maine. Built in 1889 almost entirely of pine, the 10,000-square-foot lodge hosted overnight visitors until 1961. The place still exudes a kitschy charm, but the dominant feeling now is one of ease and warmth. It’s the perfect counterpoint to life back in New York City, which is home base for Wegman and Burgin, their daughter Lola, 16, and son Atlas, 19 (when he’s home on break from college), as well as the dogs and Wegman’s city-studio and office.

In Maine, every day starts fresh, with opportunities for offleash dashes through the woods; endless stick-chasing and forest-sniffing; dips in the lake; meandering bike or canoe rides; napping (mostly by the dogs); reading; more napping; visits with nearby friends and family; jaunts into town to the library, barber or ice cream shop; and countless homecooked meals.

“It’s just easier with the dogs here than in New York,” says Wegman. “I don’t have to have them on a leash. It’s fun to see them being dogs. Really dogs. My kids like it here. My sister’s nearby. The air, the birds ... the whole thing is quite peaceful.”

With the array of amusements at Wegman’s disposal, you might wonder how he gets any work done at all. But it’s precisely this combination of play, fresh air, family and exploration that makes Maine appealing to this constantly evolving artist. “When I’m working outside of New York, I might do some really unusual, unexpected things, but when I get back to New York, I can put them up and compare them with some other work. It’s important to me to have that leveling.”

Born in 1943, in Holyoke, Mass., William Wegman certainly has nothing to prove, and yet he seems to be on an endless quest to find new forms of expression. Though he’s best known by the general public as the artist who photographs dogs, he is also recognized as one of the world’s most successful contemporary artists, masterfully mixing high art with pop culture.

Still from Spelling Lesson, 1974, video

Wegman’s films, videos, paintings, drawings and photographs have appeared in exhibits and retrospectives mounted at some of the world’s most prestigious institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Minneapolis’ Walker Arts Center, the Smithsonian Museum of American Art and the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

Coming of age in the late ’60s in Los Angeles, Wegman quickly established himself as a leader in the conceptual art movement. Droll, original and offbeat, his videos made him a star before he turned 30.

By 1973, he had moved to New York City with his beloved Weimaraner Man Ray, where their iconic video and photo collaborations further burnished Wegman’s status as an influential and original artist. His popularity soared in America and abroad. Man Ray, with his intelligent looks and astonishing self-possession, provided both a perfect foil and partner for Wegman’s imagination and unique sense of humor.

“The first time I met him was when he was six weeks. He really looked like a little man, and he was standing in a ray of light, and that’s why I named him Man Ray,” says Wegman. It still amuses him to think that their work together was the result of a happy accident. “I was just starting to take photographs. I was photographing the things that I would be setting up, and Man Ray would always get in the way and start chewing on [them]. He was interested in what I was doing. He became different when I pointed the camera at him, and what I noticed was how non-cute he looked, but more strange and intense. I was really interested in how he kind of modulated the space around me. Not just the space he was in.”

After 12 years of living and working together, Man Ray left an indelible mark on Wegman. When his beloved friend and constant companion developed cancer and died, it didn’t seem possible that another dog could, or should, become a focus of Wegman’s work.

In the wake of this loss, the artist retreated to Maine—as he had many times before with his canine buddy—to fish, hike and explore the woods. It was there, in 1985, that he rediscovered his passion for painting and drawing.

“I gave up painting in 1967 as a grad student and started again up here away from people. I didn’t really want people to know I was painting. I was kind of sheepish about it.” He began creating works based on imagery culled from encyclopedias and obsolete information—“faded culture,” as he calls it.

At the time, Wegman wasn’t actively seeking a new dog, but a chance encounter with an admirer of his work who also bred Weimaraners led to the discovery of Cinnamon Girl, a gorgeous puppy with round, yellow eyes whom he later renamed Fay Ray. “There was something about her look that really spoke to me. I was kind of obsessed. Almost like a man in love. It was like a boy and his dog with Man Ray, and then an artist and his model or muse with Fay.”

Wegman shot countless large-format photos of Fay using the unwieldy and complex 20 x 24 Polaroid camera, which he had employed earlier to great effect with Man Ray. Wholly different in her approach to the camera, Fay offered Wegman an electric energy and a willingness to take on what must have seemed, to a dog, like curious challenges. The unforgettable image of the Weimaraner standing tall on old-school roller-skates? That was the inimitable Fay. Her work ethic, combined with Wegman’s imagination, led to other unexpected and idiosyncratic works, such as his videos and films for “Sesame Street” and “Saturday Night Live.” Dog Baseball, shot for the latter on film in 1986 and featuring Wegman’s deadpan narration as well as Fay and a collection of canine friends, further expanded his devoted following.

Dog Walker, 1990, color Polaroid

Fay and her offspring—Battina, Crooky and Chundo— and their progeny—Bobbin, Candy and Penny—starred in a number of books and videos, many of which were based on re-imagined classic children’s stories, among them Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and Mother Goose. Those works, with their lush sets, ornate costumes and more than a few crewmembers, were complex affairs and yielded some of Wegman’s most popular and memorable images.

In recent years, Wegman has moved away from elaborate, production-heavy projects, gravitating toward more streamlined, painting-centric work. Though his approach to his artistic endeavors is mutable, he currently spends 75 percent of his time painting and the remainder behind the camera.

It’s quiet in Wegman’s studio, which you reach by making your way through the lodge’s living room, where Lola is stretched out on the couch, deeply immersed in a book. Go past the kitchen, where Burgin, a Yale-educated publisher and former gallery owner who produces books with artists and writers, sits editing at a small table. Then cross the rec-room, still adorned with the kids’ childhood drawings and art projects, and through the double doors of the studio.

When it storms, raindrops dance on the metal roof. Otherwise, as Wegman paints—which he does every day here—the only apparent noises are the occasional snurfle and steady breathing of the four dogs arrayed around him.

“As a kid, I always loved rainy days like this,” says Wegman. “I was painting and drawing and hanging out in the woods. It was probably the most dreamy, wonderful counterpoint to my life as a fisherman/athlete, which was the other thing I liked to do as a child … play hockey, baseball, go fishing, build huts, that kind of stuff. So that’s what I’ve been doing in Maine, kind of recreating my childhood in a way.”

Like a spirited marching band, the dogs follow Wegman wherever he goes, watching his face intently, looking for cues. They jockey for the closest position, happy to soak up his praise and nestle by his side while he reads, paints or sleeps. The feeling is clearly mutual. “Don’t they look beautiful when they’re sleeping? I could never keep them off the furniture. Why would I do that? I just love looking at them. Having them near, in close contact … it feels good.”

The dogs thrive on direction and novel activities, and are always eager to be part of the action. All it takes for Topper and Flo to perk up is for Wegman to restack some magazines or randomly reshuffle the stools; suddenly, the dogs are racing to find a perch and posing as though a shoot is about to begin. Referring to the breed’s active and sporting nature, Wegman says, “They’re working dogs. And they love to work!”

Wegman’s devotion to the dogs and their care is made obvious by how his life and that of the family’s is built around an awareness of the dogs’ needs. “It’d be hard for me to have one dog, because I like to just stand back and watch the show, like I do with my two kids: you watch them interact. So, now I have these two gray sets. I have Bobbin and Candy, who were mates. They had a litter, and then there’s Flo and Topper. I had to get Topper to give Flo a companion, somebody to play with.”

The dogs are most content when Wegman is around to keep them well exercised and entertained, so long trips away from home are rare. “I’ve spent my whole life watching and caring for them and trying to figure out what works for them. The reason I’m good at taking their picture is that I’m good at taking care of them, and I respect what they want. I’m always trying to learn what makes them individually happy.”

Wegman’s good-natured approach to raising dogs also reflects his child-raising philosophy. When Atlas and Lola were young, he recalls building towering cardboard structures together.

“When things fell apart, and failed, that’s when we had the most fun.” Exploration, not the pursuit of perfection, was the lesson, and watching Wegman paint, there’s little doubt that he adopted the same mindset regarding his own work long ago.

Sandy Beach, 2007, oil and postcards on wood panel

Wegman is currently working on a new series of children’s books. The first, Flo & Wendell, debuted in September 2013 and tells the story of a sister and brother and their adventures. This new series—and the paintings that illustrate each book—hews closely to techniques the artist employs in his postcard paintings, which begin with vintage postcards selected from his vast collection. They provide a physical starting point for the larger work, which is painted around the postcard like a sprout that blooms into an exuberant forest. His book Hello Nature (2012) features many of these postcard paintings, along with drawings, collages and prose —paeans to his love of the outdoors.

Similarly, the illustrations for Flo & Wendell begin with photographs that Wegman shoots of the dogs in his NY C studio. He’ll begin with a simple image of a puppy’s head juxtaposed against a large, blank, white page. The germ of the idea for these new books was born out of a moment of experimentation.

“I started to make this hilarious character out of Flo’s baby photo when she was eight weeks old, when she looked like a sad, little naughty eight-year-old child, and it was so funny. And I think if I hadn’t been doing that with the postcards, I wouldn’t have thought of doing that with these paintings. So I knew that this character could be developed, and I made some more characters. And then I thought, well, maybe this should be about this little girl. And what if she had a younger brother? Interestingly, the younger puppies I photographed— younger than eight weeks—they look older. So I would turn the ‘older’ ones into parents.”

Most often, Wegman sits down to work without a specific idea of what will come together on the page. “I almost never lie awake at night thinking about what I’m going to paint or write. Usually [it happens] just in the act of doing it. That’s why I have to keep busy, because if I’m not, I don’t think of anything!”

Once he’s chosen a color with which to start, his brush touches the page, and a playful scene quickly emerges. He smiles while he paints, chuckling to himself at the silliness and bravado of these pups who have come alive through deft strokes of his brush. This lighthearted, lively tone is evident on every page of Flo & Wendell, both in the illustrations and in the text.

As Wegman works, the dogs hear a curious rustling outside and wake with a start. Sixteen legs go racing through the studio, then the rec room, through the living room, and out onto the porch. There is barking—lots of it—and then a dashing-about to see what might be lurking in the surrounding woods. With a stern word, Wegman calms the pack and the dogs slip back inside. Topper and Flo trot around, wondering what might happen next, while Candy and Bobbin resume their naps.

Peace restored, Wegman cuts a path to the kitchen, where Burgin has spread out for review galleys of the early-reader counting books to be released in the spring. Burgin keeps Wegman’s projects organized and on schedule, and he values her strong editorial eye. The two work easily and productively together, and the artist clearly adores his wife of 18 years. “I’m lucky she didn’t go for tall, dark and handsome types,” he says with a wry smile.

As the sun finally begins to break through the clouds, Burgin decides that it’s a perfect time to wind down from the workday with a late afternoon bike ride. In a flash, she and Wegman are cruising down the gravel path, the four dogs running ahead like the most intrepid woodland scouts. By the time night falls, the family has gathered for dinner, each dog choosing a lap to rest a heavy head upon. It’s the perfect time for telling stories and catching up on the day’s events.

Just beyond the veranda, a moose and her calf stand in a sliver of moonlight, licking salt from the gravel road. Unnoticed by the dogs inside, the two take their time meandering past the house and up the road, while laughter pours out of the kitchen and into the night, mixing with the calls of the lake’s resident loons.

If there is such a thing as a perfect day in the country, this must be it.

Creative Collaboration

When Randy Rubin, co-founder of Crypton, launched the company’s line of pet products back in 2004, one name topped her list of potential collaborators … William Wegman. The laconic artist, renown for his photographic portraits of Weimaraners has had phenomenal success in a variety of mediums—photography, video, painting, children’s books but fabric design would be a new challenge.

Randy was a seasoned pro at collaborating on creative ventures, having co-founded Crypton fabrics with husband Craig Rubin in 1993 from the basement of their Michigan home. The company has since revolutionized commercial fabric with the introduction of a patented process that produces a virtually-indestructible, stain/odorresistant material appropriately named Crypton Super Fabric. Designing and manufacturing products for the home would be an exciting new endeavor, and the playful imagery of Wegman seemed a perfect match for the new pet line.

The creative collaboration between the innovative fabric manufacturer and the downtown visual artist has since proven to be hugely successful— producing a visual style that is once recognizable and inspired, combining the ultimate in function and aesthetics. The resulting beds, pillows, throws (christened Throvers) are elegant, bold and sturdy … fulfilling the must-have checklist for discriminating and stylish dog lovers. The essential components to good product design are exemplified in this union of art and science—and thanks to the unique partnership of William Wegman and Crypton—better living through imagination.

—Cameron Woo

News: Editors
Hair of the Dog

For those of you searching for an antidote to excessive holiday cheer or one New Year’s toast too many— we bring you “hair of the dog” or a drink to combat the hangover. This “dog” takes many forms, most commonly a variation of a Bloody Mary but may also include concoctions of gin, whiskey, tequila or beer. But what is the origin of this curiously named tonic? It can be traced back to medieval times and an abbreviation of the longer phrase “the hair of the dog that bit you.” It is based on the ancient folk treatment for a rabid dog bite of putting a burnt hair of the dog on the wound.

John Heywood, in his 1546 compendium, A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the Englishe tongue, uses the phrase with a clear reference to drinking:

I pray thee let me and my fellow have 

A hair of the dog that bit us last night - 

And bitten were we both to the brain aright. 

We saw each other drunk in the good ale glass.

The remedy works with the belief that a small amount of whatever caused the ailment, is also the best cure. While hair of the dog is now dismissed as an effective treatment for rabies, the taking of additional alcohol to cure a hangover has some scientific basis. The symptoms of hangover are partly induced by a withdrawal from alcohol poisoning. A small measure of alcohol may be some temporary relief. Many experience drinkers swear by it, and one can make a case that it does work .. but only for a short time and then you're back to the hangover, only worse. Your body contains an enzyme, alcohol dehydrogenase. It breaks ethanol down into the other chemicals that are making you ill. Adding more alcohol (ethanol) makes your body stop and concentrate on the new alcohol coming in so you do get a brief reprieve, but as soon as that added alcohol gets processed, you're back where you started but with even more toxic chemicals floating around. Unless you intend to keep drinking forever, hair of the dog is a temporary remedy at best. Instead, may we suggest a nice cuddle with your dog for what ails you …?!

News: Editors
George Rodrigue, beloved for his Blue Dog paintings, dies

New Orleans lost one of her favorite sons, artists George Rodrigue, on December 14, of cancer. He was 69. Rodrigue, the son of a bricklayer, drew upon his Cajun heritage for his work, most notably for his Blue Dog paintings, which were inspired by his deceased pet named Tiffany. The Spaniel-Terrier mix, painted with a white nose, yellow eyes and a cobalt blue body, first appeared in 1984. Rodrigue’s Blue Dog image became a New Orleans icon, appearing in advertising campaigns for Absolute Vodka and Neiman Marcus, posters for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, coffee table books and the collections of celebrity collectors. The paintings were beloved for their pop sensibility and folk art style mixed with regional folklore—the Blue Dog is a gentle, friendly version of the loup-garou, the werewolf or ghost dog that hides in sugarcane fields and haunts mischievous children.

In addition to his creative accomplishments, Rodrigue is being lauded for his numerous charitable acts. After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the subsequent flooding laid waste to much of south Louisiana, the Blue Dog appeared with an American flag, both partly submerged, to raise money for storm relief. The Blue Dog Relief drive raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to aid rebuilding, including $100,000 to help the New Orleans Museum of Art reopen. In 2009, he founded the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts, which advocates the importance of the visual arts in education.

When asked to explain the popularity of his Blue Dog paintings, the artist offered this appraisal—“The yellow eyes are really the soul of the dog. He has this piercing stare. People say the dog keeps talking to them with the eyes, always saying something different.” The paintings, he said in the interview, “are really about life, about mankind searching for answers. The dog never changes position. He just stares at you, and you’re looking at him, looking for some answers … The dog doesn’t know. You can see this longing in his eyes, this longing for love, answers.”

Survivors include his wife, Wendy Rodrigue, and two sons, Jacques Rodrigue of New Orleans and André Rodrigue of Lafayette.

 

 

Culture: DogPatch
Masterwork: Gertrude Käsebier
Classic portrait of Charging Thunder and his dog.
Charging Thunder, American Indian photograph from glass negative. ca. 1900

Before becoming one of the most influential American photographers of the 20th century, Gertrude Käsebier (1852–1934) was a wife and mother, experiences that informed her hallmark studies of women and their children. She also had an independent streak. At 37, an age by which most women of her day had settled into domesticity, Käsebier enrolled in painting and drawing classes at the Pratt Institute, then switched to photography and made it her career.

Käsebier later opened a portrait studio on New York City’s Fifth Avenue and, in April 1898, watched as Buffalo Bill’s Wild West troupe paraded past it on their way to Madison Square Garden. Among the performers was a contingent of Lakota Sioux. Inspired by the respect she had for the Sioux people of her Colorado youth, she asked William “Buffalo Bill” Cody for permission to make studio portraits of those traveling with the show, and Cody agreed.

Käsebier’s photographs—some of her portfolio’s most introspective and highly regarded—focus on the Native performers as individuals rather than cultural objects. Charging Thunder and his dog (shown here) were among her subjects. A few years after Käsebier took his photo, Charging Thunder went to England as part of Cody’s Wild West show and remained there after the show returned to the U.S. He died in 1929.

Culture: DogPatch
Porch Dogs
Maggie & BB, a Jack Russell/Australian Cattle Dog mix and Labrador/Beagle mix, in Charleston, South Carolina

Photographer Nell Dickerson fondly recalls childhood nights on the sleeping porch of her grandparents’ Mississippi Delta home—the sounds of katydids, cicadas, and tree frogs, the merciful breeze from the overhead fan. But during the heat of the day, the family sought refuge indoors, leaving the dog to his lonely vigil. “I felt like he understood that the porch was the gateway between inside and outside and that it was his duty to keep sentry there in case someone wanted to pass,” she recalls. For eight years, Dickerson traveled across the South taking portraits of dogs committed to the deep-seated tradition of watching the world. Those photographs comprise her latest book, Porch Dogs.

Culture: DogPatch
On View: Bill Traylor, Folk Artist
An exhibit at the American Folk Art Museum.
Bill Traylor - Artist

The story of Bill Traylor (1854–1949) proves that fine art can come from the most unexpected places. Born into slavery in Alabama, Traylor worked as a field hand on the plantation of his birth for most of his life. In 1928, he moved to nearby Montgomery, where he found work as laborer. After rheumatism forced him to retire, he received modest aid from a federal welfare program and slept in the back rooms of local shops.

To pass the time, the 85-year-old Traylor spent his days drawing on discarded scraps of cardboard, recording Montgomery’s bustling black community, memories of his time on the plantation, and animated figures at work and play. In the last decade of his life, Traylor produced more than 1,200 drawings. Today, he is lauded as one of the pioneers of the 20th-century group described as “outsider” artists.

Traylor’s art is much admired for its complex spatial organization, in which the surfaces are populated by flat, interlocking figures, geometric shapes and animals. Dogs are often present, passing in and out of scenes, working or observing human activities.

“Bill Traylor: Drawings from the Collections of the High Museum of Art and the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts” is on view at the American Folk Art Museum in New York through September 22, 2013. This is a rare opportunity to see the work of one of the finest American artists of the modern era.

A new film on Bill Traylor by Jeffrey Wolf is in production.

Culture: DogPatch
Fair Trade Signs
Reviving a Nepalese folk-art tradition
Fair Trade - Dog Signs

Since 1986, Nepal has been a respite for Michelle Page, a former assistant film editor who lives in Santa Monica, Calif. The country’s friendly residents and low cost of living made it an attractive escape after she had spent countless 14-hour days in a dark room working on movie projects such as Spiderman II.

But in 2007, just as her own job security was starting to wane, Page noticed a similar trend on the streets of Kathmandu. “There used to be these beautiful hand-painted signs everywhere,” recalls Page. “Then suddenly, all the new signs seemed to be digitally printed on vinyl.” Hoping to help keep traditional artists employed, Page developed an art program inspired by her favorite Nepalese signs: the ubiquitous “Beware of Dog” warnings decorating gates throughout Kathmandu. Painted in colorful enamel, the metal signs often feature a German Shepherd, but also many other breeds that obviously live at the home or business in question —Beagle, Dachshund or Dalmatian. Page has documented 360 examples during her vacations.

Since opening Danger Dogs in 2007, Page has visited Nepal twice a year— a 60-hour round-trip commute—to connect U.S. pet owners with signboard artists who need work. Armed with photos customers have given her of their dogs, she spends six hours a day traveling in the sardine-can confines of minibuses to various painters’ studios, where she hand-delivers the photos for transformation into signs announcing “Danger Dog,” “Zen Dog” or whatever the customer prefers in both Nepali script and English.

To date, Page has overseen the creation of 2,700 pieces by 58 artists, who set their own prices for the work they craft for this unexpected U.S. audience. “There’s a big well of talent, and arranging the paintings is more fun than you can imagine,” says Page. “The artists are thrilled because they get to paint. They take it very seriously.” For each commission, Page hires three different artists. Although she tries to accommodate people who request a specific painter (“They do move around a lot”), she usually gives the portrait to whichever signboard artists she “would like to see do that dog.”

“Some artists do innovative lettering, while others do really well with hair or particular facial expressions,” Page explains. A handful of artists can work from “problem pictures,” ones in which the only shot of a deceased pet is out of focus or has “green eye” from the camera’s flash.

Once the signboards are complete, Page emails digital images to the customer, who can buy one ($250) or as many as they like—or none if they feel the painter missed the mark. Page then sells the other versions through her website (nepaldog.com), galleries and museum shops.

Narrowing the choice to only one proved impossible for Kristin Anderson of Malden, Mass. “Charles’ eyes are just perfect in one painting. It really captures his expression,” says Anderson, who commissioned a painting of her friend’s Cocker Spaniel as a wedding present this spring and ended up buying two signs. “We got a real rendition of Charles Barkley.”

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