It’s easy to ignore statistics. They’re cold and dry and lack soulful eyes. And when the numbers are overwhelming — like the 5,500 unwanted dogs who are put to death daily in U.S. shelters — we tend, as a rule, to find life is more comfortable and less depressing when we don’t do the math.
Louisville artist Mark Barone is an exception to that rule. Rather than ignore the problem, he decided to put a face on it — 5,500 of them, in fact.
For two years now, he has been painting portraits of dogs who have been put down at shelters across the country, and he’s more than halfway to his goal: 5,500 portraits that he hopes will someday — unlike their subjects — find a forever home.
Their hope is the works will someday be displayed in a permanent memorial museum, which — between its emotional impact and the funds it would help raise for no-kill rescues and shelters – could help lead to their larger goal, a no-kill nation.
Mark, a well-established artist, had moved to Santa Fe when, about three years ago, he lost his dog of 21 years, Santina.
“It was kind of a sad time, and I thought it would be therapeutic for Mark to go to the dog park,” Marina recalled. “I thought it would be helpful for him to get some dog love, and it was. It was really great. It got me in the mood to think about adopting another dog. Mark wasn’t at that stage, but it didn’t stop me from looking.”
Looking for adoptable dogs online and at local shelters, she quickly learned the sad reality that she says neither she nor Mark, up to then, were aware of — that millions of dogs in need of homes are put down at shelters every year.
“Instead of finding a dog, I found out all these horrifying statistics,” she said. She shared them with Mark, along with images and videos of dogs who had been, or were on the verge of, being put down.
He asked her to stop sharing, but she kept up.
“If we don’t look at it, nothing will change,” she said. “So he looked at it, as painful as it was, and day or two later, we were standing in the kitchen and he asked me the number of dogs killed everyday in the country … I gave him the number 5,500, based on statistics from Best Friends.”
It was then that the idea of honoring shelter dogs by painting 5,500 portraits of those who had been killed was born, and along with it, the longer term plan of a memorial museum, along the lines of the Vietnam Memorial and the Holocaust Museum.
Santa Fe wasn’t interested. Louisville was among about 30 places that were.
That’s where the couple lives now, and where Mark has completed about 3,200 of the portraits — some of them life- sized, some of them larger.
“It’s the big ones, 8 feet by 8 feet, that slow things down,” Mark said.
Only one of the 8×8-foot paintings depicts a dog who died a natural death — Mark’s dog, Santina. According to Marina, Santina will serve as the gatekeeper of the exhibit. Other large portraits feature Batman, a 10-year-old pit bull who was left outside in 21 degree weather, and was found dead at a shelter the next morning, and Grant, who was deemed unadoptable due food bowl aggression and put down.
The large paintings — there will be 10 of them — will include the individual stories of those dogs, representing the most common reasons shelters give to put animals down.
Mark and Marina are still looking for a permanent place to house the works, and for sponsors and benefactors for the museum, and they have some promising leads, both in Louisville and around the country. In addition to being an educational center, the museum would also be an outlet for selling merchandise that features the images – shirts, cards, and other products. An Act of Dog, which is a nonprofit organization, would pass on all profits to no-kill facilities and rescue groups.
The dogs in the paintings come from shelters all around the country. Their photos are submitted by rescue groups, volunteers and shelter employees. They have all been put down.
Mark and Marina object to the use of the term “euthanized” when it’s applied to healthy animals. “Deliberately ending the life of a healthy and treatable pet is killing. Deliberately ending the life of a medically hopeless and suffering pet is euthanasia,” Marina said. They don’t much like “put to sleep,” either.
“Semantics are a powerful way to keep people from the truth and our mission is to show reality without the candy wrapping,” she added.
Mark paints everyday, from sunrise to sunset. At night, he and Marina work on the An Act of Dog website. They’re both foregoing salaries at this point.
Mark has served as a consultant to cities interested in using the arts to revitalize blighted areas, among them Paducah, Kentucky, and its Paducah Artist Re-locaton Program. Marina worked 20 years coaching corporate executives.
“We could turn away and pretend like we didn’t see what we saw, or we could do something about it,” she added. “If that means we have to live poor, we’re OK with that, because we know we did something.”
They’re working now in studio space provided by the Mellwood Art Center in Louisville, where they did end up adopting a new dog, named Gigi, from a local shelter.
What drives the couple, though, are all the dogs who don’t get out alive — the thousands put down each day.
“The no-kill movement is making strides, but not fast enough,” said Mark who, on those days he doesn’t feel like painting, reminds himself of the bleak numbers, and the 5,500 reasons — every day — he must continue.
(Photos and video courtesy of An Act of Dog: At top, a collage of Mark’s paintings; Mark and Marina in their studio; some of the larger paintings, with Mark’s former dog, Santina, at left; and three shelter dogs dogs Breeze, Freckles and Sky)
Posted by jwoestendiek May 10th, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: act of dog, an act of dog, animal welfare, animals, art, artist, death, dogs, euthanasia, faces, holocaust museum, kentucky, killed, killing, louisville, marina dervan, mark barone, mellwood art center, memorial, museum, no kill nation, no-kill, painting, paintings, pets, portraits, project, put down, put to sleep, rescues, santa fe, shelter, shelter dogs, shelters, statistics, vietnam memorial
My dog Ace is always pretty cooperative — you might even say a ham — when it comes to having his picture taken.
But last week he went so far as to provide not just the photo op, but the frame.
We were wandering around historic Reynolda Village in Winston-Salem, where he generally checks each shop’s doorstep for water bowls or treats, then peers inside to see if anything of interest — i.e., food related — is going on.
When we came to Village Smith Galleries, an art and framing shop, it was closed, but Ace hopped up on a bench at the entrance. Both sides of the front step were surrounded by lattice, allowing opportunities for him to present his good sides (and there are many) in a pre-framed manner.
In case you can’t read it, that bandana he’s wearing — he got it as a going-away gift — says “I’m smarter than your honor student.”
Sometimes I wonder how true that might be.
Posted by jwoestendiek May 3rd, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, art, dog, dog photography, dogs, frame, framed, frames, framing, north carolina, ohmidog!, pets, photo, photography, photos, reynolda, reynolda village, travels with ace, village smith galleries, winston-salem
This combines so many of my favorite things — springtime, Philadelphia, cartoons (the hand-drawn kind) and dogs — that I feel compelled to share.
He intended to draw some people. But most of the people had dogs attached to them.
Auth, after 40 years as editorial cartoonist at the Inquirer, serves as the first “digital artist in residence” at NewsWorks, the online home of WHYY News.
You can find more of his work at TonyAuth.com.
Posted by jwoestendiek April 17th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, art, cartoonist, cartoons, dog, dogs, dogs and owners, drawing, editorial cartoons, newsworks, owners, park, pets, philadelphia, rittenhouse square, sketches, spring, springtime, tony auth, walk, walking
We don’t know if Fidèle bit, but the millionaire’s dog, back when they were both alive, did write some pretty biting letters.
The art uprooting happened last year when, against his will (the written kind), the Barnes Foundation toted the eccentric collector’s masterpieces from suburban Merion to downtown Philadelphia — 181 Renoirs, 69 Cézannes, 59 Matisses and 46 Picassos included.
The dissing of Fidèle — a mid-sized black and white dog — just occured.
An exhibit at the new museum containing Fidèle’s dog bed, and several letters that the dog “wrote,” has been closed to make room for a showing of sculpture by Ellsworth Kelly, Bloomberg reports.
As the Bloomberg reporter sees it, the change — while maybe not anyone’s intention — further removes Barnes from the impressive array of art he collected:
“Less than a year after Albert Barnes’s art, uprooted from its original home in Merion, Pennsylvania, occupied new quarters, the collector himself has been removed from the Philadelphia museum that now houses his treasures.”
Last May, after years of lawsuits and heated opposition, and in a saga far too intricate to fully cover here, the Barnes Foundation, which oversees the collection, moved the art to a modern building in downtown Philadelphia, where it was thought it would be more accessible to the public.
That ran counter to what Barnes specified in the will he had written before his death in 1951, in which he expressly forbade moving the pictures from Merion.
The foundation – to show some respect to the man they were disobeying — opened the new downtown museum with a special show in tribute to him, entitled, “Ensemble: Albert C. Barnes and the Experiment in Education.”
It depicted the history of the collection, and the man behind it — a doctor, chemist and the developer of Argyrol, an antiseptic useful for the treatment of gonorrhea.
Fidèle once wrote Winston Churchill to congratulate him on the liberation of France (where she was from). More commonly, she wrote to express her owner’s anger over something, or to art critics who had requested to view his master’s collection. Generally, she would reject the requests, sometimes in a rude and sassy manner that reflected Barnes’s distaste with the art establishment.
“While the Barnes tribute was never described as permanent, its removal struck some as a further slight to the man and his legacy,” Bloomberg reported.
The new exhibit, “Ellsworth Kelly: Sculpture on the Wall,” opens May 4. A spokesperson for the foundation said that, despite the old exhibit closing, continued efforts are underway to ensure Barnes keeps a high profile.
Fidèle’s profile appears to be less of a concern.
Maybe she should write a letter.
Posted by jwoestendiek March 26th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: albert barnes, animals, art, barnes foundation, bed, cezanne, collection, collector, dog, dogs, exhibit, fidele, last wishes, letters, matisse, merion, moved, museum, pets, philadelphia, picasso, removed, renoir, replaced, will
He has been gone for 60 years.
He’s believed to be a Labrador-mastiff mix, and he’s missing his tail.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, he’s a statue — missing from Robbins Farm Park since about 1950.
According to Boston.com, Roland Chaput and fellow members of the Friends of Robbins Farm Park decided earlier this year to make at least some effort to find the dog and return it to its original home.
“Maybe it is in some guy’s backyard and he forgot all about it,” Chaput says.
Since the early 1900s, the dog — he has no name — sat atop a hill at the park.
But where he came from, like where he has gone, isn’t known.
According to a history of the park, by Oakes Plimpton, the statue belonged to the land’s previous owner, the late Nathan Robbins, a member of a well-known Arlington family that gave the town several of its public buildings, including the library.
Robbins married May Robbins in 1902, and around 1912 they moved into a house on the farm. While it’s not known where the Robbinses obtained the statue, it has been speculated that he was procured for use as a make-believe guard dog.
Chaput says the statue was probably cast iron, but could have been bronze. He says it was about four feet long, and modeled after a Labrador retriever, or a mastiff, or a mix of the two breeds.
Nathan and his wife May, by some accounts, had a major falling out in the 1920s, and went 20 years without speaking to each other, though living in the same home. A 1929 Globe article reported that May was suing her husband for financial support and claimed that, though her husband grew potatoes, he would only give her rotten ones to cook for herself.
The farm was owned by the Robbinses until 1942, when the town obtained the property for use as the purpose of using the land as a park.
Around 1950, the old farmhouse was torn down, and the statue of the dog disappeared, possibly taken by a memberof the demolition crew. Or maybe not.
Not even the dog’s sculptor is known for sure. One member said it was initially thought to have been made by famed Arlington sculptor Cyrus Dallin, but recent research suggests that wasn’t the case. Now they suspect the statue was a copy of one made by 19th century Rhode Island artist Thomas Frederick Hoppin. It was called “The Sentinel.”
The group has located similar dog statues in Houston, and is considering having a copy of one of those made if they can’t find the missing one.
Chaput said they’d even consider paying something for the statue’s safe return.
“I want it to go into the playground, where the kids can have their picture taken with it,” he said.
Anyone with information about the statue is asked to call the Friends of Robbins Farm Park at 781-646-7786.
(Photo: From the book,”Robbins Farm Park, Arlington, Massachusetts: A Local History,” by Oakes Plimpton)
Posted by jwoestendiek March 15th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 60 years, animals, arlington, art, boston, disappeared, dog, dogs, friends of robbins farm park, massachusetts, missing, pets, return, robbins farm park, sculpture, search, statue
We all know that when a dog pees on something, it’s generally not an opinion that he’s expressing.
Still, there are those who see poetic justice in Richard Jackson’s oversized sculpture, “Bad Dog,” a 24-foot black Lab who’s urinating on the side of the Orange County Museum of Art, a building many see — despite all the fine artwork inside — as artistically lacking on the outside.
The work by Jackson adorns one facade of the museum in Newport Beach, where an exhibition of his work – ”Richard Jackson: Ain’t Painting a Pain” — is underway.
The oversized pup, visible from blocks away, is made of fiberglass panels. Inside, Jackson installed a vat of yellow paint that continuously shoots, via hidden hoses, a stream onto the side of the building.
The peeing dog, and Jackson’s indoors exhibit, will remain on display through May 5, 2013
According to the nearby plaque, the “guileless dog unwittingly points to the sometimes rigid institutional constraints that can frustrate artists and audiences alike.”
My Modern Met describes the project as “one of Jackson’s many ‘painting machines’ that excretes pigments in an unusually creative fashion.”
Posted by jwoestendiek February 25th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ain't painting a pain, art, artists, bad dog, dog, exhibits, expressing, ichard jackson, institutional constraints, lab, labrador retriever, museums, newport beach, opinions, orange county museum of art, paint, painting machines, pee, peeing, peeing dog, peeing puppy, puppy, sculpture, stream, urinating, yellow
Barkitecture Houston, a two-day fundraiser that features some innovative interpretations on that old standard, the dog house, will begin Oct. 26.
This year’s benefit, for Pup Squad Animal Rescue, promises to be bigger than ever, with more than 20 dog house designs being featured, along with a full slate of activities for dogs and humans.
The fundraiser calls on local artists, designers and architects to create stylish and functional dog houses, which are then sold at auction. It’s in its fourth-year running, according to the Houston Press.
Last year’s event brought in $18,000 for the animal rescue group.
“Houston is definitely a dog town, but there’s also a huge problem of overpopulation,” said Julie Landry, co-founder of Pup Squad. “It’s just a matter of getting the message out, to spay and neuter your pets.”
This year, the festivities kick off with a “yappy hour,” on Friday, October 26. On Saturday, the dog houses will line the two blocks of the Houston Pavilions. Attendees can bid on their favorites, or buy them for $500. Judges will select the “Best in Show.”
The Houston Press previewed this year’s entries, which included a giant rescue chopper that lights up, a doghouse with a roof drainage system that collects water, and a colorful fan of a dog house that folds up like a briefcase.
We’re pretty sure none of them, though, have what a dog house in Houston needs most — air conditioning!
Here’s where you can find more information.
(Photos: Some of last year’s entries; Rachel Bohanan / Houston Press)
Posted by jwoestendiek October 11th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, architecture, art, barkitecture, barkitecture houston, benefit, design, dog, dog house, dog houses, doghouse, doghouses, dogs, fundraiser, fundraising, houston, innovative, neuter, organization, pavilions, pets, pup squad animal rescue, rescue, responsible, spay, unusual
A suburban Cincinnati dog park is getting a massive mural — and no, it’s not advertising — that celebrates dogs, covers up an unsightly old lock-testing chamber alongside the Ohio River, and gives local artists some paying work.
The makeover is being done by a team of artists and students from ArtWorks, a local organization that connects student apprentices with professional artists to create public art around the Greater Cincinnati area.
About 20 dogs will be featured on the wall – all of them depictions of real pets who visit the members-only dog park — along with a famous quote from Plato:
“Life must be lived as play.”
The idea of painting the concrete structure that sits in the middle of Kellogg Park’s dog field in Anderson Township was put forth by resident Claudia Cline, who regularly visits the dog field with her beagle-mix, Pflash.
“I absolutely love it, … and it represents the dogs beautifully,” Cline told the Community Press & Recorder. “Not only does the park benefit, but the kids get jobs as artists. The whole area looks totally improved and like somewhere you’d want to hang out.”
Student apprentices are working with lead artist Elizabeth Hatchett and assistant teaching artist Laura McNeel to put a new face on the former lock-testing facility.
“We wanted it to be fun and whimsical, and we wanted to show the playfulness of dogs,” said Susan Romer, one of the student artists working on the mural. “It represents the dogs’ personalities and we tried to show each dog as they really are.”
The mural should be finished by November.
Cline said about $2,500 still needs to be raised for the project. About $32,000 has already been taken in through private donations from the owners of the dogs on the wall or those who support public art.
(Photo: Lisa Wakeland / The Community Press)
Posted by jwoestendiek September 28th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: anderson township, animals, apprentices, art, artists, artworks, cincinnati, claudia cline, concrete, dog park, dogs, donations, employment, kellogg park, lock testing chamber, mentors, mural, ohio river, painting, park, pets, plato, program, work
That dog-themed mural painted on the side of an Arlington, Virginia grooming shop is being painted over, but the owner of the shop says a new one will go up — one she assures won’t be construed, like the first one, as advertising.
The whimsical, 960-square-foot mural on the side of Wag More Dogs ran alongside the Shirlington dog park, and was commissioned by store owner Kim Houghton for $4,000 shortly before the shop opened in 2010.
Even before the opening, Arlington decided the mural was not art, but advertising. Given city rules permit signs of only 60 square feet, they ordered it reduced or covered.
Houghton covered the mural with a blue tarp and sued Arlington in federal court.
In February 2011, U.S. District Court Judge Leonie M. Brinkema issued a 31-page opinion, siding with Arlington.
The judge concluded that Houghton “cannot reasonably assert that the dog mural is anything other than a business sign, erected as part of a business strategy to advertise and promote the Wag More Dogs brand.”
Houghton, a former advertising representative for The Washington Post, appealed, but this May the 4th Circuit federal appeals court upheld Brinkema’s decision.
Houghton’s attorney said this week that he disagreed with that decision.
“Today, Arlington County has muzzled free speech. If the mural displayed cats, dragons or ponies, it would be fine,” he told the Washington Post. No further appeals are planned, he said.
Houghton started painting over the mural Tuesday.
“I’m sad to see the mural that was an expression of my joy of being on this dog park, of my love of dogs, be wiped out, after a long struggle,” she said.
She said a new mural would replace it, free of commercial content, and unrelated to the shop, which grooms and boards dogs. The original mural contained some of the same cartoon dogs in her company’s logo.
(Photo: Tom Jackman / The Washington Post)
Posted by jwoestendiek September 27th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: advertisement, animals, arlington, art, boarding, court, dog park, dogs, federal, freedom of speech, groomer, grooming, kim houghton, mural, over, painting, pets, removing, ruling, shirlington, sign, virginia, wag more dogs
For two years, Yun-Fei Tou has been photographing dogs heading to meet their deaths at the Taoyuan Animal Shelter in Taiwan, providing in the process some last-minute affection to the animals and a message to all: There has got to be a better way.
“I believe something should not be told but should be felt,” says Tou, 37, a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design. “And I hope these images will arouse the viewers to contemplate and feel for these unfortunate lives, and understand the inhumanity we the society are putting them through.”
He has captured the images of some 400 dogs, most of which were pets abandoned by their owners, sometimes hours before they are euthanized, sometimes just minutes, according to an Associated Press story.
And once in a while, according to a recent piece in the Washington Post, he is at their side when the lethal injection takes place.
“You treat them like your own dog or daughter or son. And then you play with them, as if they are your friend … You just make sure that when they are facing euthanasia, they are in peace,” Tou said.
A selection of some of the 40,000 dog pictures Tou has taken are scheduled to be exhibited in August in his first full-scale show, at the Fine Arts Museum in the southern Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung.
A few others are on display at Taoyuan city hall, aimed at heightening citizen awareness of the responsibilities that come with raising a pet.
Tou first became interested in photography in 1991 as a student at The American School in Switzerland. In 1998, he graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a major in photography.
His softly lit photographs reflect the dignity of the soon-to-be-killed dogs, who, despite often being mangy and emaciated, seem to have a grace about them.
Shelters in Taiwan will euthanize 80,000 dogs this year. In the U.S., between 3 and 4 million dogs are euthanized a year.
You can find more of Tou’s photos here.
Posted by jwoestendiek July 27th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, art, death, death row, dignity, dogs, euthanasia, exhibit, grace, memento mori, pets, photographer, photography, photos, shame, shelters, taiwan, taoyuan animal shelter, yun-fei tou