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Tag: art

German photographer drawing flak for her “flying” dogs photos

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A German photographer is taking some heat — at least on the Internet — for a series of photos capturing dogs in mid-air.

Dogs used in the photo shoot didn’t plummet too far, apparently only a couple of feet or so, after being dropped by their (off camera) owners onto a mattress.

slide_383962_4580588_freeBerlin-based photographer Julia Christe came up with the idea of photographing dogs while they were airborne during an assignment shooting photos for an undisclosed animal pharmaceutical product.

The photos were picked up by more than a few media outlets, including the Daily Mail, which called them “hilarious,” and the Huffington Post, which termed the dog’s faces “precious,” pointed out no dogs were injured and noted, “We’re betting some of them even wanted to go again, since dogs are just awesome.”

Readers, almost unanimously, had, an entirely different view of it. Almost all those leaving comments on the Huffington Post post, called it animal cruelty, with many noting the fear they say is evident in the dog’s eyes.

Nearly 100 dogs and their owners turned up at Christe’s studio after she issued a call for canine models — and none of the owners apparently had any problem holding their dogs in the air and dropping them onto a mattress.

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Christe (left) said she was seeking a unique perspective for her dog photos, and that all the dogs who took part seemed to have fun doing so.

“The dogs were dropped by their owners onto a mattress from as low a height as possible, and the impression of flight was enlarged by wind machines,” the photographer explained in the Daily Mail.

But as some commenters noted, even light landings can be hard on small dogs like dachshunds, and — regardless of how far they’re falling — the stress and fear it causes constitutes cruelty, some say.

“It’s actually incredibly dangerous for doxins to jump, let alone be dropped,” wrote one. “Their backs are very fragile and can break. This is more about a photographer wanting the spotlight, than it is art. Shame on you for putting your ego before these dogs’ safety and well being.”

We’d go a step further and say it’s also about websites who pander to dog lovers without pausing to think about what they’re pasting onto their sites — the ones that, in their haste to get more hits, slap an “adorable” label on anything dog-related and share it, failing to apply anything close to critical or responsible thinking.

2351CC9300000578-2842131-Behind_the_scenes_at_the_photoshoot_this_bearded_collie_prepares-24_1416480491504Was Christe’s project cruel to dogs? That’s debatable. Was it stupid? Definitely (and that applies to the volunteer dog owners, too).

“I really love animals, and so everything was safe, I would never take a chance on them getting hurt,” Christe said in the Daily Mail article. “…I feel the photographs show off both the grace and elegance of the dogs, which makes them appear in a slightly different way than usual.”

For all those pet photographers who would put a dog at risk so that they may achieve a new artistic perspective, we’d suggest they fling their own selves through the air, or turn their own selves upside down.

Because all those down-to-earth dogs are perfectly happy with the perspective they already have.

(Photos: Julia Christe  / HotSpot Media)

John Oliver dogs the Supreme Court

Not since they started playing poker — at least on canvas — have dogs been presented as ridiculously and imaginatively as they are in this bit of cable television comedy.

Generally, dogs who are depicted as talking, or otherwise behaving as humans, fail to rise to the level of art, or even comedy, in my view. On top of never being too funny, the humanizing of dogs makes me wince. They’re perfect as they are; why drag them down to our species’ level?

But, in light of the point it makes, we’ll cut John Oliver some slack. Noting that cameras aren’t allowed in the U.S. Supreme Court, and that those courtroom artist renderings don’t make for riveting drama, Oliver suggested on his HBO show “Last Week Tonight” that dogs be used to act out the audio — the audio, unlike the video, being public.

“Cameras aren’t allowed in the Supreme Court, so most coverage of our most important cases looks like garbage. We fixed that problem with real animals and fake paws. Feel free to take our footage.”

In addition to what was aired on the show, he provided some stock dog video so that viewers can create their own dog-ified Supreme Court re-enactments. You can find that footage on YouTube. You can find some viewer submissions through #realanimalsfakepaws.

Oliver suggested broadcast news organizations use the animal footage with actual Supreme Court audio, instead of the boring still illustrations that they currently depend on. Doing so, he says, might get Americans more interested in what’s transpiring in the highest court in the land.

The sketch features dogs as the nine justices. That’s a bulldog as Antonin Scalia and a glasses-wearing Chihuahua providing the voice of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. There’s also a duck as an assistant, and a chicken as a stenographer. The sketch uses audio from an actual Supreme Court session (dealing with Holt vs. Hobbs, a case that questions whether prisons can force Muslim prisoners to trim their beards).

It’s unlikely the comedic barb will lead to any change in the stuffy and camera-shy court’s refusal to allow its proceedings to be televised. And if anybody took the issue to court, guess where it would eventually end up?

Even if the Supreme Court did go fully public, and became a TV show, I suspect it would only take one or two viewings of SCOTUS Live — or whatever it would be called — to turn most viewers off. In truth, most of us don’t want to watch the Supreme Court on TV, we just want to have that right.

More likely, after watching the dry and dusty judges making dry and dusty arguments, we’d all be saying, “Bring back the doggie version!”

Is artwork an attack on pit bulls?

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Whether it’s art, propaganda, or a combination of the two, a memorial to victims of fatal dog attacks is creating controversy as one of dozens of entries in a public art display in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The work  is called ”Out of the Blue,” a reference to how dog attacks — and particularly pit bull attacks, the artist repeatedly points out — usually happen.

outofblue2The display, created by a woman identifying herself as Joan Marie Kowal, consists of more than 30 decorated crosses, representing the number of people killed in dog attacks this year, and images of the victims, many of them children.

The artwork is rubbing some dog lovers, and particularly pit bull lovers, the wrong way, which has led to some demonstrations and the kind of heated, everybody’s an expert debate that follows pit bulls around wherever they go.

Joan Marie Kowal, we suspect, has more experience in badmouthing pit bulls than she does in creating art, but then again artists don’t need credentials in this competition.

Every year, for 19 days, three square miles of downtown Grand Rapids is opened up to artists in ArtPrize, a competition that awards $200,000 to the grand prize winner.

Downtown becomes “an open playing field where anyone can find a voice in the conversation about what is art and why it matters,” according to the  ArtPrize  website. ”Art from around the world pops up in every inch of downtown … It’s unorthodox, highly disruptive, and undeniably intriguing to the art world and the public alike.”

This year, “Out of the Blue” has proved among the most disruptive.

A week ago, perturbed pit bull owners brought their dogs to Calder Plaza, where the entry is displayed, in hopes of presenting their views and showing that pit bulls — the breed most often mentioned in the memorial — aren’t vicious killing machines.

When they sat down in front of the memorial, Kowal complained they were obstructing the public’s view.

Kowal told MLIVE.com in an email that “visitors can’t even see the art and many have told me the bully breed owners, sitting on the ledges blocking the view of the victims’ biographies and refusing to move, makes them unable to enjoy the piece.”

Grand Rapids Police Lt. Pat Dean said Kowal filed a complaint in late September about people sitting with pit bulls on the stone wall in front of her ArtPrize entry. Police found nothing illegal at that time, he said, and members of the group, while on public property, moved at the request of officers.

Kowal describes the work as “an opportunity to Pay it Forward, and show the good side of humanity. Visitors are encouraged to express their sympathy, respect, and support for the victims and their families by leaving teddy bears, flowers, or memorial decorations in the designated heart-shaped memorial space.”

According to a brief biography listed on the ArtPrize website,  Kowal is an animal lover, who has feral cats and pet squirrels. She attended Grand Valley State University.

Not a whole lot can be learned about her through searching her name on the Internet, and there’s no mention of any previous artistic pursuits.

There was a 2011 MLIVE.com article that mentioned her name, and quoted her as being a supporter of a proposed pit bull ban in Wyoming, Michigan.

Perhaps she became an artist “out of the blue.” Perhaps her anti-pit bull passion needed an outlet.

We support the right for just about anyone to call themselves an artist, assuming they are making some form of art. We don’t have a problem with Kowal expressing herself — either vocally or through her “art” — on the streets of Grand Rapids. By the same token, we have no problem with pit bull owners and their dogs sitting down squarely in front of it, as long as it’s public property. They have the right to express themselves in public, too, whether they’re ArtPrize contestants or not.

So do we. And our opinion is Kowal is pushing her personal agenda under the guise of a non-profit organization’s art competition, and that it’s likely part of a well-plotted effort by those forces intent on painting all members of the breed with the same brush, reinforcing negative stereotypes while playing fast and loose with the facts.

Kowal says she plans to add three more crosses this weekend in remembrance of three other people who died from injuries she says were caused by pit bull attacks.

“That is not my fault that they were all killed by pit bulls,” she said. “I’m just showing the facts.”

Artist and her dog wear each other’s hair

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No surgical procedures were involved — thank God — but Japanese artist Aki Inomata and her dog, Cielo, have exchanged hair.

As an artistic exploration into the relationship between pets and their owners, Inomata has made a coat out of her own hair for her dog to wear, and a cape out of her dog’s hair, which she can be seen modeling above.

hairexchange2It took several years of gathering the locks of herself and her dog, followed by much weaving, to assemble the hair and fur into wearable items.

An art installation that displays both coats, and a video of the process, is entitled, aptly enough, “I Wear the Dog’s Hair, and the Dog Wears My Hair.”

The coat exchange was an exercise in empathy, Inomata says.

“I have had various pets, and do so now as well,” Inomata is quoted as saying in an article on DesignBoom.

“I believe that all people who have pets wonder at some point whether their pet is happy, and I face the dilemma of whether it is right to make a living creature into a pet. Within this context, I have had these animals appear in my artwork.

“My works take as their starting point things that I have felt within everyday experiences, and transplant the structure of these experiences analogically to the modes of life of the animals. The concept of my works is to get people to perceive the modes of life of various living creatures by experiencing a kind of empathy towards them.”

Exhibit depicts Houston’s homeless dogs

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Houston’s homeless dogs are the subject of a photo exhibit opening this weekend.

The two-week exhibition, entitled, “No One’s Dog,” is aimed at bringing attention to the animal overpopulation crisis in Houston, where shelters generally operate at capacity and an estimated 1 million dogs and cats are living as strays.

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Three non-profit agencies are supporting the project – DiverseWorks, Barrio Dogs and Box 13.

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The public was invited — and supplied with disposable cameras — to capture images of homeless dogs. The images were uploaded to Flickr (you can see them all here) and the best were chosen for the exhibit, according to the Houston Chronicle.

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The exhibit runs from July 26 to Aug. 9 at DiverseWorks, 4102 Fannin Street in Houston.

(Credits: Top photo by Emily Crossley; second photo by Page Moore; third and fourth photos by Gina Damian)

From homeless heroin addict to popular artist, with help from a dog named George

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A formerly homeless man who once sold his sketches for pocket change on the streets of London’s now sells them for thousands of dollars at exhibits — and credits his dog for turning his life around.

Up until a few years ago, John Dolan, 43, had been a heroin addict whose life had seen more than 300 criminal convictions, 30 stints in prison and long stretches of homelessness.

He was living on the streets when he took in George. The young Staffordshire bull terrier had been living with another homeless couple who had had acquired him in exchange for a can of beer. They’d found housing, but not dog-friendly housing, and George needed a home.

Dolan, who hadn’t exactly been living a life of responsibility, was worried about whether he was up to having a dog.

“How was I going to cope with him? I couldn’t even cope with myself,” he told the Guardian.

georgeBut George, he noticed, had a way of looking him in the eye when he talked, and the two quickly bonded. Dolan says it was the fear of losing George if he went to prison again that led him to give up crime.

“He’s like my child in a sense and I feel obliged to keep a roof over his head and keep him warm,” he said.

Of course, George was helping Dolan out in other ways, too. Dolan made more money panhandling when George was at his side. Still, Dolan says, he felt embarassed by begging.

“Sitting there holding out my hand was so embarrassing, so degrading. I didn’t like to look at people as they went past. I picked up the pen mainly so I could bury my head in a drawing pad.”

He started drawing the buildings, and drawing George, and, sitting with his dog on the sidewalk, he would sell the drawings for whatever he could get.

Then he was discovered. First he was commissioned to do some drawings for a book. Then a gallery director, Richard Howard-Griffin, asked if he would draw some large streetscapes for him.

dolanbookLast fall he had his first exhibit. His second is now underway at the Howard Griffin Gallery in London, with proceeds being donated to The Big Issue Foundation and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home. 

Another exhibit, in Los Angeles, is in the works. And Dolan has published a book, “John and George: The Dog Who Changed My Life.”

Dolan has a home now, but  still sits on the street and draws, with George.

“I feel like he’s a guardian angel. If it hadn’t been for him I’d have never picked up my pen.”

(Top pPhoto: David Levene / the Guardian)

Artist’s goal: Painting all 51 Vick dogs

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I’m not sure what I love more about this artist — her paintings, her name, her theme or her determination.

Levity Tomkinson is a Kentucky artist who has tackled a serious project — painting all 51 of the dogs seized from Michael Vick’s dogfighting operation in 2007.

She’s more than one-fifth of the way there.

levityFinding herself struck by the resiliency of those Vick dogs who were rescued and rehabilitated, Tomkinson got the idea in 2012 and started what she calls The Re51lient Project.

Tomkinson had started painting dogs — beginning with her own, a pit bull mix named Rinlee – in 2010, when, after graduating college, she found herself without any good job leads.

After reading an article about Vick dogs who had been rehabilitated and adopted, the project began.

“I thought of the idea during a time in my life that was really unpleasant, where I was trying to find meaning and happiness and purpose again, and these dogs were absolutely a part of my healing process. They inspired me to be positive, to smile and look at the world and appreciate all different kinds of beauty …. I am forever indebted and grateful to these dogs for changing my life.”

Like many dog lovers, Tomkinson was moved how many of the dogs taken from the NFL quarterback’s Bad News Kennels managed to overcome the horrors inflicted on them there.

As she explains it on her blog, “I cannot begin to fathom the daily lives of the 51 dogs who were rescued, and those before who weren’t. I paint for the 51 …

“I paint for the dogs … that didn’t win in a fight they never wanted anyway, dying from injuries with punctured skin and a mauled lip and face that became raw meat. I paint for the dogs … with that were forced into a rape stall to unwillingly bring more dogs into the world of dog fighting. I paint for any dog who has been, is, or will be a part of this heinous world. The resiliency of the 51 is my courage, my push, my determination, and my love for this project.”

rayTomkinson, according to the Huffington Post, hopes to turn the project into a book, with portraits of all 51 dogs — those who were adopted and those who spent the rest of their lives in sanctuaries.

“Every single dog has importance and a story to tell, something to teach us, and either their passing or not being adopted doesn’t lessen their message or them,” she said.

“If Re51lient can empower one person to choose positivity over negativity, triumph over fear, allow them to let go of past hurt or add one more pit bull lover to this world, then my heart is happy. ”

(Photos: Lucas, a former Vick dog who died last year at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary; Tomkinson, from her Facebook page; and Ray, a Vick dog adopted this year)