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Tag: art

A truly commited artist — or at least one who maybe should be

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What do you say about an artist who lays naked with wolves, breastfeeds a puppy, and fertilizes one of her egg cells with a dog’s cell?

Among the words chosen by those commenting on websites describing her work are these: “Psychopath,” “Dear God, the world has gone nuts,” “Disgusting, disgusting, disgusting” and “Someone tell me this is fake news.”

Sorry, it’s not.

Artist Maja Smrekar’s four different projects, combining art with scientific research, go under the name “K-9_topology.”

They started with a fairly tame researching of the physiology of the relationship between humans and dogs. That was followed by posing naked with wolves.

Then she got weird.

smrekarfacebookThe Slovenian artist lived in seclusion for three months with her dogs as part of one.

During that time, she used systematic breast pumping to stimulate a hormone and trigger production of breast milk, and breastfed her puppy Ada to explore “the social and ideological instrumentalization of the female body and breastfeeding.”

That piece of work would go on to be exhibited as “Hybrid Family.”

Then — to explore her “reproductive freedom in a dangerously traveled multi-species world” — she took a fat cell from another dog, Byron, and used it to fertilize one of her eggs using a method similar to IVF. No true pregnancy resulted, according to RT.com.

The artist said on her website that the project grew out of the “observation of zeitgeist through the so called thanatopolitical dimension of contemporary biopolitical practices.”

Do not even ask me what that means. (A video in which the artist explains one of her projects can be found here.)

Despite the bizarre nature, Smrekar’s project has received accolades from art critics and was awarded the top prize in the Hybrid art section of the Prix Ars Electronica, one of the best known prizes in the field of electronic and interactive art.

What did they have to say about it?

“What is making this artwork so special is the total commitment of the artist,” the jury said in a statement.

That commitment, they said, was reflected by “exposing her body to hormone roller-coasters of false pregnancy and organizing the lab infrastructure to execute the complicated biotech protocol in order to create a poetic masterpiece evoking the challenges of post-humanistic dilemma.”

(The word “commitment” does come to my mind in looking at her work, but a different kind of commitment.)

“K-9_topology is a true hybrid artwork with a profound bio-political message,” the judges concluded, “and is certain to bring a lot of discussion to the audience from both the art and science sides.”

Not the words I would choose. To me, it serves as proof that, as weird as scientific research can get, as weird as art can get, combining the two can get exponentially weirder.

The story behind those Bangor bar hounds

"Bar Hounds," a mural by Constance Depler Coleman, at the New Waverly, a Bangor bar.

There’s an old school bar in Bangor, Maine, that has a dog mural on a wall that many have wondered about for decades, including the bar’s owners.

Where did the original version of it come from? They didn’t know. Why leave such a retro monstrosity on the wall? Because they love it.

The ten-foot mural features 12 dogs of various sizes and breeds, all dressed liked humans and standing around the bar. There’s a high-falutin’ cocker spaniel, a basset hound in a plaid sport coat, a professorial Boston terrier, a boxer elegantly attired in tails, and a Great Dane who appears to be hitting on the poodle on the stool next to him.

Jimmy Puiia, owner of the New Waverly, knew very little about the mural — except that he bought it at the old Sherwin-Williams on Central Street back in 1975, as a heavy piece of custom wallpaper to be installed on the wall.

That’s where it has been for 42 years, the Bangor Daily News reported last week. (The website will make non-subscribers answer a couple to get access to the story, but it’s worth the effort.)

Only three years ago did the family that owns the New Waverly — known among locals as “The Wave” — learn about the significance of their mural.

Here’s what happened:

Members of the Sohns family — many of them regulars at the New Waverly — were attending the NY Now Gift Fair in New York City in the summer of 2014, perusing the offerings of thousands of vendors, when they stumbled across what appeared to be some of those very same dogs.

“There was this giant cut out of the Great Dane (from the mural) right in the middle of the booth, and we all just kind of went ‘Holy crap! It’s the Wave dogs!,'” Amanda Sohns said.

The booth, as it turned out, was run by Amanda Coleman Voss, daughter of the original artist, Constance Depler Coleman, now 91 years old.

Depler Coleman is a pet portrait artist behind a series of works showing dogs in various human-type social setting, most of them created in the 1950s and 1960s. (But no, she’s not the artist behind the poker playing dogs.)

By the 1970s, bars across the country featured her work as part of their decor — printed on wallpaper murals. There were the Bar Hounds, the Hep Hounds, the Western Hounds and more, and they’d almost all end up the victim of upscaling and gentrification by the 2000s.

waverly022417 002.JPG“People redecorate bars. They update them,” Sohns said. “But not the Wave. It’s a time capsule.”

Sohns said she was told at the gift show that only about four of the murals remain displayed across the country.

“But there’s five, including the Wave,” she said. The Sohns family own the Rock & Art Shops in Bangor, Bar Harbor and Ellsworth.

Depler Coleman went on to more fame though, painting pet portraits for the rich and famous, including former President George W. Bush, and Oprah Winfrey.

In 2012, her daughter, Amanda Coleman Voss, started a business printing her mother’s retro art on items including glassware, posters, tote bags, and more.

The website OriginalDepler reports that Depler is still “creating, traveling, painting and enjoying cocktails with her friends.”

newwaverlyAt the New Waverly, a restaurant and bar that has been named one of the best dive bars in Maine, Puiia said the mural serves as a conversation-starter. Patrons like to decide which dog in the mural best represents their persona.

“I think people like to figure out which one they are, and which one other people are,” Puiia said. “People like to talk about it. It’s just been here for so long. It’s definitely a part of the bar.”

And, based on their recently-found knowledge, it’s even more worth preserving. “Who knew?” Jimmy Puiia, Anthony’s son, said. “Now I think we want to preserve it. Maybe put it behind plexiglass. I never knew it was so rare.”

(Photos: Bangor Daily News)

Guggenheim, citing threats, pulls controversial pit bull piece from exhibit

The Guggenheim Museum in New York has pulled from an upcoming exhibit an “artwork” that features, on video, four pairs of pit bulls on treadmills charging at each other.

Real dogs are used in the piece, titled “Dogs Cannot Touch Each Other,” but it is a video version of a performance staged live when it first appeared in Beijing in 2003.

It and two other works condemned by animal welfare activists will no longer be part of the exhibit when it opens Oct. 6.

The charging pit bull piece — a seven minute long video — is by artists Peng Yu and Sun Yuan, a husband and wife team (let’s hope they treat each other with a little more kindness) who, in the original exhibit, lined up four pairs of pit bulls, face to face, on eight treadmills.

The dogs charge towards each other, but never get more than a few inches away. Still, they keep at it, panting and drooling and becoming more and more stressed out and frustrated.

The Guggenheim initially responded to animal welfare concerns by saying it had no intention of removing the work from the exhibit.

But, just four days later, museum officials reconsidered.

guggenheim-gallery-exterior-lightAccording to a report from NPR, the Guggenheim will pull the pieces from its upcoming exhibit, “Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World.”

The museum blamed “explicit and repeated threats of violence,” but provided no details.

An online petition demanding the museum remove the works garnered more than 600,000 signatures since it was posted five days ago, and protesters gathered outside the museum on Saturday, holding signs that say “suffering animals is not art.”

Even after that, the Guggenheim defended the pit bull video, calling it on Thursday “an intentionally challenging and provocative artwork that seeks to examine and critique systems of power and control. We recognize that the work may be upsetting. The curators of the exhibition hope that viewers will consider why the artists produced it and what they may be saying about the social conditions of globalization and the complex nature of the world we share.”

But on Monday the museum relented under the pressure and said it was pulling that work and two others, citing threats of violence and concern for the safety of its staff, visitors and the artists.

“Although these works have been exhibited in museums in Asia, Europe, and the United States, the Guggenheim regrets that explicit and repeated threats of violence have made our decision necessary,” the museum said in a statement. “As an arts institution committed to presenting a multiplicity of voices, we are dismayed that we must withhold works of art. Freedom of expression has always been and will remain a paramount value of the Guggenheim.”

In another of the to-be-removed pieces, artist Xu Bing tattooed meaningless characters all over the bodies of two pigs, a boar and a sow, who were put on display, mating, in a museum exhibit in Beijing in 1994. The Guggenheim was to feature the video of that “performance” as well.

Also removed was a work featuring live animals — reptiles, amphibians, insects — that are trapped in a glass enclosure and proceed to eat and kill each other for the viewing pleasure of attendees.

Dog museum heading back to New York

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The Dog Museum of America (yes, it’s a real thing) will move from its home in Missouri back to New York City.

The museum spent its first five years of existence in Manhattan, until it moved west, in part because the rent would be cheaper.

It first opened in the New York Life building at 51 Madison Avenue in 1982, and moved to St. Louis in 1987. After 30 years it will be moving back, probably within a year, to be housed in the American Kennel Club headquarters, the AKC announced Friday.

The American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog boasts one of the world’s biggest collections of canine art.

The move is aimed at enhancing its future, and is the result of a “mutual agreement” between the museum’s board and the AKC board, the New York Post reported

“New York City is world-renowned for its art and museum culture and we feel that it is the perfect place to house a museum and educational interactive learning center as a destination,” said Ronald H. Menaker, chairman of the board for the American Kennel Club.

Stephen George, the museum’s executive director, said the decision was made to increase the number of people who see the artwork.

George said attendance and programming has increased in recent years, with about 6,000 paying visitors last year. Its revenues, however, have dropped.

In addition to George, a curator, an event coordinator and five part-time staffers will lose their jobs, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

After a year-long nationwide search for a new home, it was moved to Missouri, reopening in 1987 as the Dog Museum of America at the Jarville House in Queeny Park.

museum2St. Louis County officials had meant for the Jarville House to be a temporary home, but plans to incorporate the museum into a planned horse park and condominium complex fell through.

The museum operated on its own in St. Louis County, but in 1995, it and the AKC reaffiliated, and the museum was renamed the American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog.

There was more talk of relocating after that, with a move to North Carolina being described in 1996 as a “done deal.”

But the AKC reconsidered and opted to keep it in St. Louis.

Through the years, the AKC has donated more than $4.5 million to keep the museum open.

The museum in houses 4,000 pieces of dog art, including paintings, photos and sculptures. It also holds more than 3,000 books and other publications, and it maintains a registry of more than 250 artists who are available by commission to paint dog portraits.

(Photo: Robert Cohen / Post-Dispatch)

That moment the treat is on its way

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A German photographer is capturing the rapture of dogs who know a treat is on the way.

Manuela Kulpa, a renowned animal photographer who lives near Cologne, Germany, focuses in this series on the faces of dogs as they prepare to catch a treat.

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Capturing the joyful anticipation of that drool-filled moment can take as many as 80 tries, she told The Mirror.

The dogs she worked with, almost all rescues, included a flat-coated retriever, French bulldog and Bernese mountain dog, a dachshund mix, a munsterlander, a pit bull terrier and a Jack Russell terrier.

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Kulpa, 46, is a self-employed IT programmer and consultant. She and her husband Stefan, also a photographer, have their own dog, a golden retriever called Dobby, as well as three cats.

“There are certain prerequisites that have to be fulfilled for us to capture these images,” she said, “things like the dog must follow the sit and stay commands and must be able to or at least try to catch treats from the photographer.

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“We have to sit very close in front of the dog, throw the treat and then try to synchronise the treat catching with the triggering of the camera.

“I love the dogs’ expressions,” she added. “They remind us with their cheerfulness how important it is to enjoy the moment.”

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You can find some of her other dog photos here, and more of her animal photos on the website ISO.500px.com

Who stole the giant turd of Torrelodones?

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Officials in Torrelodones, a town outside Spain’s capital of Madrid, are scratching their heads after someone made off with a giant inflatable replica of dog poop — a municipally-sanctioned artwork (and we use the term loosely) intended to remind citizens to pick up after their dogs.

The victim, when on display, is brown, nearly 10 feet high, and weighs about 65 pounds.

Once the air is let out, it is small enough to be packed in a carrying case, which is the condition it was in when someone walked off with it.

The town says it will cost more than $2,700 to replace.

Speaking to the ABC newspaper, a town official said staff were shocked and perplexed by the theft, and a replacement excrement was already on order because “we know that the campaign has been a great success.”

No word on how long it may take for that to come to pass.

Nor is there any mention of a ransom note being sent by those who pinched it.

The inflatable poop is one of several symbols being used in the municipality’s “Lay an egg” campaign. Torrelodones has also placed concrete dog poops around town bearing the message “This is a big blockage to living together. If you have a dog, help us.”

Should an arrest be made, we think the suspect would be able to put on a pretty good defense.

After all, he or she was only doing — albeit on a far larger scale — what the campaign urges.

After flunking out as a service dog, a black Lab named Dagger turns to an art career

Having a gallery opening and appearing on the “The Rachael Ray Show” show in the same week would be quite the accomplishment for any artist.

But this one has only been painting a year.

And he has no hands.

Dagger II burst onto the art scene in March, when Newsday published a story about the paint brush- wielding, three-year-old black Labrador.

dogvinciYesterday, in light of his growing fame, there was a follow-up story in Newsday recounting his recent achievements.

Dagger II and his human, artist Yvonne Dagger, met Rachael Ray last month and demonstrated the dog’s skills. Dagger II, wearing his trademark red beret, was said to have hit it off especially well with Ray’s co-host for the day, Regis Philbin. The episode airs Friday.

Friday also marks the gallery debut of Dagger II — also known as DogVinci. His works will be on display at Long Island Picture Frame and Art Gallery in Massapequa Park.

Dagger II and his owner have partnered with that business to sell both original works and limited edition prints of his creations.

Ten percent of proceeds will go to Forgotten Friends of Long Island, a Plainview-based animal rescue and rehabilitation group.

Yvonne Dagger adopted Dagger II after he flunked out of service dog training. It was discovered he had a fear of going up and down stairs.

After laying at her feet as she painted, he attempted his own foray into the art world.

sunny-day-1-lLast Summer, Yvonne Dagger said, the dog who had always quietly watched as she painted began nudging her. She asked him if he wanted to paint and he began wagging his tail. She set up an easel for him, made a brush handle out of a paper towel tube and duct tape, and taught him some commands.

Yvonne helps him load the brush with non-toxic paints.

“Brush,” she tells Dagger to get him to take the makeshift brush in his mouth. “Paint,” she says to get him to apply brush to canvas.

His original paintings are selling for up to $325.

You can learn more about Dagger II, and view more of his works, at his website, DogVinci.com.

(Photos: DogVinci.com)