News: Guest Posts
Celebrating Peter Urban
Bark contributor to be honored this weekend

This weekend the life and work of photographer Peter Urban will be celebrated in Boston (details below). Urban may be best known to Bark readers for his contributions to our pages, illustrating stories about working Beagles at Logan Airport, Border Collies on a Massachusetts farm, clicker-training pioneer Karen Pryor and more. He died last September at the age of 61.

  “Peter’s work always captured the hopeful, knowing side of people. His photographs always made the articles better, more insightful,” says Cameron Woo, Bark’s creative director.   A Boston-based photographer, Urban shot everything from revealing portraits to elegant architectural studies for newspapers, including The Boston Globe, magazines, and commercial and nonprofit clients. For us, of course, he added pups to the mix with delightful results, in part, because he was a dog guy.   In a recent email, Urban’s life partner, Steve McCarthy, shared a little slice of their life with dogs. He wrote: “When I met Peter we both had dogs. Mine was Sophie, a Golden Retriever, and Peter’s was Sammy, a Chow. The dogs got along famously and when we would play with them it was truly funny. Sophie was great at catching tennis balls, Sammy not so much. However, when he saw what Sophie was doing he would try his best to catch the balls, too. When we tossed it to him it usually bounced off his head. Peter would call Sammy over and make like he was going to throw the ball. Sammy would stand on his hind legs, mouth wide open. Peter would drop the ball into Sammy’s open mouth. That’s the only way he could catch the ball, but once he did he would run around with the ball in his mouth so proud that he had caught it.”   Friends and family honor Peter Urban’s memory and contributions this weekend with the Peter Urban Memorial Hall Dedication (Friday, May 14, 5:30-7:30 p.m.) and a retrospective exhibit (Saturday and Sunday, May 15-16, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.) at The Bates Art Center (731 Harrison Avenue, Boston).


News: Guest Posts
Beloved Artist Stephen Huneck Dies
Economy, depression may have fueled suicide

“The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man’s.”  -- Mark Twain
I have a rug by Stephen Huneck in my bedroom. It shows one dog pulling a boat, with other dogs inside it, through the water. It says “Friendship” and indicates that we can pull each other through anything.
Unfortunately, no one could pull Huneck through his recent tragedy. Sadly for all in the dog world, and non-dog people, too, celebrated dog artist Huneck, 60, of St. Johnsbury, Vt., took his own life early on Jan. 8. He had apparently been battling with depression for a long time. His wife cites the downfall in the economy as a factor, including the fact that Huneck had to let approximately half his employees go recently. It made the tragedy even worse in that he shot himself outside his psychiatrist's office, just a few feet from possible help.
Huneck’s talent was to depict everyday concepts using dogs as the players. His prints, rugs, notecards and furniture were sometimes straightforward, sometimes naughty and always witty. He warmed our hearts with prints such as “A Day at the Beach” and tickled us with those such as “Menage Trois.” He had a great understanding of modern culture and of the dog mind, too.
Huneck was no stranger to the concept of death, opening the acclaimed Dog Chapel for people to come remember their pets who had passed. Huneck also credited his choice to pursue his artwork to a near-death-experience years ago.
I feel certain Huneck has gone to his concept of Dog Heaven, “Welcome all creeds, all breeds. No dogmas allowed,” as it says at the Dog Chapel. He must also wear the golden wings he so often depicted in his prints. And now he has inspiration for more “heavenly” subjects, such as dogs chasing a dogcatcher ’round the Elysian Fields.

News: Guest Posts
Draw The Dog
A worthy web destination for dog lovers.

I love dogs—that’s obvious. And I love cartoons. I honestly believe these are two of the sublime pleasures in life. So the day I discovered Draw the Dog counts as a banner day. The website is a collection of cartoons drawn daily by ex-Disney animator Jim George. The old school drawings are animated, and appear on the screen as if they are being drawn in the moment. You see Buzz, a running dog; then, a leash appears in his mouth (oh no!); then, a forlorn, jogging-suited person scrambles after him—as the landscape of a park fills in around the ill-fated pair. Sigh. I’ve been there. 

So has the real Buzz in Baton Rouge, La., on whom the cartoon is based. This is one of the other wonderful aspects of the site—most of the cartoons are based on the for-real adventures of actual pups. George invites guardians to send in their true stories as inspiration for images. (Details here.) If your story inspires a cartoon, your pooch will be credited appropriately for digging through the garbage, peeing in your lap, playing tug-of-war with the towel on your head. You’ll be so proud.

News: Guest Posts
Bark Reader Wins
Twitter portrait contest yields good art and good works.

Back in July, JoAnna Lou let us know about a southern California dog portrait artist named Aimée Hoover, who connects with friends and admirers as DogArteest on Twitter. Inspired by the 140-character limit on that social networking service, she thought she’d try creating portraits in 140 minutes. (By contrast, her commissioned portraits can take between 25 to 40 hours.) When she tweeted a call for photos, her experiment became a contest with a free portrait as the prize.

We were happy to spread the word, and among those who read Lou’s blog was Diane Houghtaling, aka Louisebear2 on Twitter. Houghtaling promptly entered the contest with an image of her senior rescued Pit Bull-mix Bud, and then went on to win. Yeah! (It’s been a big year for Bud. He and his “sister” were among the Smilers in the Sept/Oct 2009 issue of Bark.) Feeling a little responsible for Bud’s victory, we had to see the winning photo—too handsome really!—and then, more obviously, the resulting portrait—seriously lovely. (Experience the portrait’s arrival.)

Hoover’s only request of winners is that they pay it forward—somehow do some good for somebody else. Houghtaling is already a volunteer for her local SPCA and volunteers weekly with a Puppy Mill Awareness group (NPPMWatch) in her community. For her “official Pay It Forward,” she made a donation to Dogs Deserve Better.


The contest continues in December--what are you waiting for?

News: Guest Posts
Gone to the Dogs
Canine-themed art show featuring 22 artists and 3 pups (!) opens tonight.

Out walking, I’m often distracted by dogs. At the very least, I smile. Other times, I stop to talk and sneak a caress, sometimes completely ignoring the biped at the other end of the leash. It’s the same in museums or art galleries. Whenever I see artwork featuring a dog, I simply have to stop and take a second look. It hardly seems like a connoisseur’s approach, and yet, these dogs they draw me in, invite closer consideration of a painting, drawing or sculpture and where’s the harm in that?

An entire exhibition built around the canine subject is a particular delight. And I’m thinking that because all the images feature dogs, it’s easier to appreciate the works, in a way. No one of them has the special advantage of featuring an irresistible species. With all the artists representing essentially the same subject, the differences in media, technique, tone and vision really pop. You’re looking at dogs sure, but you’re also grooving on the art. What more could you want?

In “Gone to the Dogs” at Denise Bibro Fine Art in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, dog lovers will see funny, serious, moving and thought-provoking representations of our best friends in pen and ink, photography, oils, mixed media, video, sculpture and more by 22 artists and three painting pooches.

Plus, the show does good by its muse. A portion of sales proceeds will benefit Animal Haven, a nonprofit organization that finds homes for abandoned cats and dogs throughout the tri-state area, and provides behavior intervention when needed to improve chances of adoption.

Gone to the Dogs opens tonight and runs through Nov. 7 at Denise Bibro Fine Art, 529 West 20th Street 4W, NYC.

Artists in Gone to the Dogs include: David Barnett, Sophie Blackall, Dusty Boynton, Boyce Cummings, Peter Drake, Katherine Fraser, Eric Ginsburg, Lauren Grabelle, Catherine Hnatov, Serge Hollerbach, Brooke Jacobs, Michel Keck, Susan Kuhlman, Damon Lehrer, Laelia Mitchell, Jane O’Hara, Amy Ross, Nancy Schutt, Raychael Stine, Jenny Toth, Tim Vermeulen, Douglas Wirls and Susan Woolf; plus canine artists Sammy the Doggie DaVinci, Tillamook Cheddar and Ziggy the Painting Pekingese.

News: Guest Posts
Sit, Stay, Shoot
Canine photographers take a bite out of Walker Evans.

They act. They paint. So photography is not really any great leap. But the results are astonishing when small 5mp digital cameras with automatic timers are attached to the collars of six Pike County dogs.
The “phoDOGraphers” spent about one week capturing rural Georgia from a canine point of view in approximately 1,000 images each. Thirty exhibition images were chosen based on originality, technical execution and individual style, and are on display at the Whiskey Bonding Barn in Molena, Ga. (one hour south of the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport), this weekend, Sept. 26-27, from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is free.

“The phoDOGraphy Show” is presented by SlowExposures, a nationally recognized photo exhibition held annually in Pike County as part of a fundraiser to support the preservation of the historical and cultural heritage of the rural south through contemporary photography. All proceeds from “The phoDOGraphy Show” go to Pike Preservation and local pet rescue. For more information, please visit www.slowexposures.org or contact Slow Exposures at 770.567.3600.


News: Guest Posts
A Creative Twist on Animal Welfare
New initiative helps low-income artists cover medical care for their pets.

Laura Menck doesn’t want artists to have to choose between caring for themselves or their animals. But she knows it happens all the time. Her husband, rock musician Ric Menck, is one of many artists who have gone into debt over pet care costs.

So she got together with some like-minded arts-loving, animal-welfare advocates to build a backstop against just such a problem. The Animal Care for Artists Initiative aims “to assist low-income individuals, employed in the arts, in covering the cost of medical care for their animal companions.” Artists whose income falls within California’s low-income guidelines can apply for financial assistance to cover veterinary costs including spay/neuter procedures, vaccinations and emergency care. Cosmetic procedures are not covered.

The initiative is brand new; the organization is currently testing its application and financial assistance reward process, and just starting to raise awareness and funds. “It took everything I had to get the entire 501(c) (3) process going,” Menck says. A longtime animal welfare advocate and volunteer, Menck founded the initiative while pursuing a graduate degree in nonprofit management and public policy and working as a pulmonary lab clinical research supervisor at UCLA. She and her husband have an American Bulldog named Dolly; who is featured in the organization’s logo.

“I feel—in today’s world—we need to support the arts because creative expression is needed for creative change to come about; socially and politically,” Menck says. “It’s no secret that artists, on average, make much less than people realize so they have a hard time maintaining their creative objectives and financial stability. At the same time, I want to make sure animals are spayed/neutered, healthy, and don’t end up in shelters. ”

The Animal Care for Artists Initiative kicked off a website, and Facebook and MySpace profiles in August.  “I instantly started receiving requests for assistance and offers from volunteers and donations,” Menck says. The initiative also launched a drive through Kickstarter at the end of August, which runs through October 31. “Right away, the committee chair for Los Angeles Animal Services Spay/Neuter committee donated on Kickstarter!” Pledges were up to $1,345 in the first week. “We received generous support from a couple in Nashville who are very devoted to the welfare of artists and animals in their city. That was really exciting,” Menck reports. “And entertainer Emily Volman is already on the case helping us find artists we can help in Nashville.”

It’s a grassroots, cooperative effort: A local vet provided help with the application forms, graphic designer Rob Kelly donated the logo, and local artist, Thomas Valle-Guatemala, created the website. Our first volunteer, Sarah Northcutt, is hard at work establishing contacts. In the past week we have received offers from people willing to volunteer their time and donated artwork, such as that by Denver artist Gemma Huang, for a future fundraiser to include performances by artists such as The Del Reys.

“We are getting inquiries from animal lovers and artists,” Menck continues. “That both groups seem to, overwhelmingly, appreciate the support and the uniting of the two worlds has been incredibly inspiring and compelling for me; which makes me think this will be bigger than any of us realized.”

News: Guest Posts
Party Animals
Jill Beninato celebrates dogs and artists.

The only downside to Jill Beninato’s inspired fundraising art collaboration last year was there wasn’t enough art to go around. Thirteen copies of the luscious art swap/fat book, Dogs Rule (see The Bark, September 2008), went to the participating artists and only one was auctioned for the benefit of A Place To Bark animal rescue. Well, Beninato is back—and this time she’s corralled even more dog artists to donate original work for the animal shelter and she’s found a way regular art-and-dog-appreciating folks can enjoy the art and support the cause.

This year, 20 artists, including Nancy Schutt and Anne Leuck Feldhaus, created work based on the theme, Party Animals, in the medium of their choice. Beninato photographed each and compiled them in a zine, along with articles and information about A Place To Bark. The final product is 40-plus, full-color pages (printed on demand by Lulu).

If you like the more exclusive appeal of Dogs Rule, the original artwork for Party Animals will be auctioned on Ebay, October 15, 2009. For details on the auction and a complete list of Party Animal artists with links to their websites, visit the SitStaySmile blog. Learn more about the genesis of the original idea and the “sisterhood” of dog artists in an interview with Beninato on the Art Dog Blog.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Canine Art in 140 Minutes
Aimée Hoover uses Twitter-inspired portraits to promote her artwork.

With more and more companies getting on the Twitter bandwagon, dog artist, Aimée Hoover wondered how she could use the latest in social networking to promote her business. Instead of simply tweeting every now and then, she discovered an interactive and fun way to spread the word about her work and connect with fellow dog lovers.

Inspired by Twitter’s 140 character limit, Aimée wondered if she could paint a portrait of a fellow tweeter’s dog in less than 140 minutes. She tweeted looking for photos to fuel her experiment and a contest was born. So far Aimée has completed five free portraits of five lucky pups.

The time limit turned out to be quite liberating and Aimée even surprised herself by the pieces she’s been able to complete in such a small amount of time. Aimée’s commissioned portraits, which include more detail and continual collaboration with the client, take 24-40 hours to complete. 

Aimée plans on running the contest approximately once a month for as long as her schedule allows. The details on the next opportunity can be viewed on her blog. She’s even posted photo tips to help those vying for a free portrait. All Aimée asks is for winners to pay it forward and do something nice for someone else.

I have a weakness for canine art and have been a longtime fan of Aimée’s work. She has an amazing ability to capture each dog’s unique personality on canvas. So it didn’t surprise me that she found a way to challenge herself while inspiring others to share photos of the special canines in their lives. 

I’ve subscribed to other business’ Twitter feeds before, and it usually feels more like an infomercial with their mindless blasts of promotional tweets. Aimée’s Twitter page showcases her beautiful art and gives fans a peek into her daily routine.

Have you seen any unique canine-related uses of Twitter or other social networking websites?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Grieving Through Art
DoveLewis’ Community Art Program helps pet lovers heal after a loss.

When a friend’s dog recently passed away, in my search for a memorial gift, I discovered an amazing program started by certified grief counselor and artist, Enid Traisman at DoveLewis emergency animal hospital in Portland, Ore.

Through running one of the first pet loss support programs in the nation, Traisman found a unique way to use art to foster the healing process. Three years ago, the former social worker turned full-time pet grief counselor added the Community Art Program to the already successful group therapy sessions and 24-hour message line. Offered for free through a sponsorship by Dignified Pet Services, pet lovers can sign up through the hospital’s website.

Twice a month, Traisman picks projects to help grieving pet lovers memorialize animals who have recently passed away. People are asked to bring pictures of their pets to personalize their artwork. Past projects include picture frames, memory boxes, and prayer candles. At special adult-only sessions, participants have the opportunity to create glass memorial keepsakes fused with their pets’ ashes in a kiln.

Although Traisman has been doing this for years, she is still moved by what is an emotional process. “These memorial art sessions have been fabulously rewarding,” Traisman says. “It is amazing to see the beautiful items people create in memory of their beloved pets.” 

The DoveLewis Community Art Program is a great way to honor the pets who have given so much during their short time with us. I only wish there were more of these beneficial programs at other hospitals around the world.