The Portraitsphere: Unchained

Princess1

Remember the Portraitsphere, where all manner of media is used to capture a canine likeness? A while back I came across these incredible life-size sculptures of dogs made from used bicycle parts. The artist is Israel-based Nirit Levav and I think her series Unchained is amazing. It’s another example of art that uses found materials, similar to the work by Sculptor Jonathan Bowling where the final piece transcends the materials.

12.Saluki

She really captures the essence of a dog in her work. I think it takes some extraordinary vision to create something so refined from a bunch of old bicycle chains and other junky parts. Here is what Nirit has to say about her work:

“Chains are rather versatile; it is a material which can be very soft and flexible or very stiff, long or short. As for the dogs–there are so many species and breeds, and each one of them looks so different and allows numerous possibilities for creation. There is a wide range of shapes, heights and textures that characterize dogs, unlike other animals. Take the elephant for example–they all look sort of the same. Furthermore, it is definitely my favorite animal. Dogs speak with human beings without actual words.”

I think she’s right about the versatility of the bicycle chains, but still…who could imagine they’d convey a sense of fluffiness in the end? Or sleekness? Or dogginess? But in her hands they certainly do…

Lola

Koka

Maxine

If you would like to see more examples of her work or commission your own glorious bicycle-ish sculpture, you can visit her website here.

All photos from unchaineddogs.com.

Erica Preo is CEO & Creative Director of Pantofola, pure luxury Italian goods for dogs.

The Portraitsphere : Kids Against Lab Beagles

"Louie" by Kat

It’s time to venture into The Portraitsphere once again, and this time we’re off to Pasadena to visit the world of a cool kid named Kat. But before we leave on this journey, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to all of the talented people on this planet who choose to “use their power for good”, because that’s the theme for today. Let’s go!

Kat is an 11-year-old kid who loves beagles and she has one named Bentley. She put a beagle on the top of her Christmas list one year and her parents agreed that if she’d do enough research about them in advance, she could get one. Somewhere along that path, Kat discovered the horrific reality of laboratories that keep beagles in cages and force them to spend their lives suffering and enduring constant torture and pain in sadistic tests. Now to me, the fact that an innocent child full of excitement about adopting a rescue beagle for Christmas stumbles upon this cruel practice just adds another sad dimension.

But Kat was clever and she knew just what to do. She has talent, lots of it, and she’s using it for good. She’s an artist, and she paints — what else — beagles! She sells her paintings on her own website and donates 100% of the proceeds to an organization called The Beagle Freedom Project. I just bought this watercolor, titled Lola —

Lola watercolor by Kat

— and there are so many others —

Paintings by Kat

She loves painting, and she does as many as she can in between all of her other activities and school. Her parents underwrite the cost of her materials and manage her sales, so she’s free to paint up a storm. She churns out paintings based on beagles she knows but she will also create custom portraits. There are also lots of items available here on Zazzle.com featuring her beautiful paintings, including a 2014 calendar that I recently ordered as a gift. Proceeds from these products also go to support The Beagle Freedom Project.

And here, of course, is a photo of the artist with her pal Bentley when they brought him home (I think she loves him) —

Kat and Bentley

If you would like to check out Kat’s paintings and make contact for getting one of your own (she’s spending extra time over the holidays beefing up her inventory!), please visit her website Kids Against Lab Beagles here.

For more information about The Beagle Freedom Project, visit their website here.

All images courtesy of the artist.

Erica Preo is CEO & Creative Director of Pantofola, pure luxury Italian goods for dogs.

Vafa Animal Shelter

The gates at Vafa Animal Shelter in Iran

Governments get in the way. Rhetoric makes us bypass people we might otherwise admire. That’s a lousy thing because if we can push that aside and look closer, we’d be very surprised at what we’d find. Which leads me to the question: can dogs serve as ambassadors of goodwill between nations? Yes, I think they definitely can.

On my trip to New York last June, I met a very talented artist from Iran named Mahmoud Hamadani. For a brief moment I’m going to bring one of his pieces into this post, for a few reasons. First, he’s the one who told me about the Vafa Animal Shelter (because the topic of dogs seems to always come up with me) so it sets the context. Second, because abstract art is open to interpretation I’m going to use this piece as a visual for the point I’m trying to make about cultures. And third, because I love it so much.

Endless Roads by Mahmoud Hamadani

This piece is from Mr. Hamadani’s Endless Roads series which is based on a stanza from a poem called The Untimely Traveler by Azadeh Farahmand. It’s Untitled XV, ink on paper, and it’s a lovely 60″ x 44″. When I look at this piece in the context of different cultures, I imagine the vertical and horizontal lines represent “us” and “them”, which is easy enough because it illustrates a difference and distance between people and nations. But everywhere that these lines intersect, that’s a commonality: food, water, shelter, love, pursuit of happiness, security, the list goes on. And apparently that list includes dogs.

It’s never good to make generalizations, but I’ve always thought middle eastern cultures didn’t care much for dogs. But, judging by the photos below, this is clearly not the rule.

Photos from the Vafa Animal Shelter in Iran

Welcome to the Vafa Animal Shelter, just outside of Tehran in an area called Hashtgerd. Founded by Mrs. Fatemeh Motamedi when her husband donated the land, the shelter was built to provide a place for all of the stray dogs to live. And not only live, they seem to thrive here! These have to be the happiest shelter photos I’ve ever seen! I realize that it must be a huge struggle to maintain this facility with a lot of heartache on a daily basis but the dogs, staff, and visitors seem to be genuinely happy in every picture I find. There’s a true sense of love for these dogs that is captured no matter what’s going on: spa day, getting the place ready for the cold winter months, doing vaccinations, and odd repairs.

One huge difference with this shelter I noticed is that these dogs are able to move about freely, rather than being confined to cages. Since they are social animals these dogs seem much more at ease with this arrangement, making this place feel more like a dog village. They appear to interact so well with the staff, it’s as though they are helping with those repairs. I would assume that if you were to adopt a dog from the Vafa Animal Shelter (and people do!) you’d pretty much be guaranteed a fine dog that could get along well with other dogs. Even on days when a local restaurant delivers fresh raw bones, these guys just find their own spot and munch away. Amazing.

Vafa Animal Shelter in Iran

The word “vafa” means “loyal” and judging by these photos and the dedication of Mrs. Motamedi and her staff, I’d say that loyalty goes both ways. I’m giving these folks at Vafa Animal Shelter my highest respect and admiration, and I wish I could meet them someday for coffee and a nice how-do-you-do in the international language of Dog. No matter what our governments have to say.

Vafa dog now in Chicago

The photo above is one lucky pup from Vafa, now living half a world away in Chicago.

If you’d like to learn more or donate to the Vafa Animal Shelter, you can find all of the information in the About section of their Facebook page, which is here. If you are interested in adopting a Vafa shelter dog, please contact Farah Ravon (based in California): by email kfravon@yahoo.com, or by phone +1 (408) 431-6954 (mobile/cell).

For information on the artist Mahmoud Hamadani, you can visit his website here.

All shelter photos from the Vafa Animal Shelter Facebook page. Mahmoud Hamadani painting, copyright and courtesy of the artist.

Erica Preo is CEO & Creative Director of Pantofola, pure luxury Italian goods for dogs.

Hachikō visits Montréal

Hachiko in Montreal

The Mosaïcultures Internationales de Montréal 2013 is taking place this summer at the Montréal Botanical Gardens and I’m so glad someone had the brilliant idea to create who else but—Hachikō! If you’re not familiar with this event, it’s similar to Pasadena’s Rose Parade held each New Year’s Day here in America, except the sculptures aren’t floating and bobbing down Colorado Boulevard. And the horticultural artists seem to use more leafy plants versus flowers. Each one has a cultural theme that stems (oops, a plant pun) from the artist’s country of origin. There is also a catalog of plants that must be followed in your design.

Hachiko in Montreal

I think they did a great job with Hachikō. Besides capturing his classic pose, they also recreated the platform at the train station where he would wait each day for his owner to return. (For background information on Hachikō, here is my post with his story.)

Hachiko on Platform, Montreal

Another dog that made it into the show is this one, companion of Elzéard Bouffier who was the main character in the tale The Man Who Planted TreesL’homme Qui Plantait des Arbres by French author Jean Giono. The story is about a man who reforests a valley in the foothills of the Alps in Provence throughout the first half of the 20th century, so this was a great choice for the exhibit. An animated short of the story by Frédéric Back was released in 1987 and won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film, I would love to see it.

The Man Who Planted Trees

Of course there are many more amazing sculptures on display with all kinds of animals prominent in the theme. Below are examples from Montreal, Okinawa, Shanghai and Madagascar.

Montreal Botanical GardensOkinawa at the Montreal Botanical GardensShanghai at the Montreal Botanical GardensMadagascar at the Montreal Botanical Gardens

If you will be visiting Montreal before September 29, why not spend a few hours checking out these beautiful sculptures? Here is the event website for more information.

Erica Preo is CEO & Creative Director of Pantofola, pure luxury Italian goods for dogs.

Photos courtesy Mosaïcultures Internationales de Montréal 2013 and flickr.

Edward Tufte is a Dog Guy

Edward Tufte Sculpture & Dog Photo

On my recent trip to New York, I made it a point to check out the gallery of Edward Tufte in Chelsea. If you’re not familiar with Edward Tufte, he’s kind of the worldwide father of information design, among many other things. I was lucky to attend one of his all-day lectures back in 1996 in San Francisco, and boy was it fascinating. I’ll never forget watching him zip around the room, passionately pulling imaginary pixels from the air. Most of his career was spent as Professor of Political Science, Statistics, and Computer Science, Senior Critic, School of Art at Yale University, from 1977 to 1999, and he continues there as Emeritus Professor. But what I didn’t know is that he’s a practicing artist, mostly sculpture that’s dotting the Connecticut countryside. It was his apparent love for dogs in his work and personal life that caught my eye.

Edward Tufte Gallery, Chelsea

So the first thing I did in New York (although I did briefly pass through Eataly) was to make my way to his gallery and see some of the dog works in person. I didn’t see this “dog friendly” sign at the time, but I did notice there was a bowl of fresh sparkling water at the gallery’s entrance for thirsty patrons of the arts that might be out and about cruising the Chelsea arts district on a warm June day. Mr. Tufte gets another point from me.

Edward Tufte's dog sculptures, Chelsea

This sculpture is the one that I wanted to see most of all, and I was able to see both the large one at the top and the “mini-me” version below, which also appears in the first photo in this post along with Porta the Portuguese Water Dog, the real life model. Porta appears to be giving it the critic’s review. There is some great information and photos about the process on his website here.

The piece below was also on display, and I’m hoping it’s a dog…I assumed it was at the time, but I was too caught up in the moment and now I’m not completely sure because it feels a little equine. Apologies if I’m wrong.

Edward Tufte Sculpture

There are also some great photographs by Tufte on display, and he appears to have a good sense of humor:

Sorry I Bit the Christie's Guy photo by Edward Tufte

I pulled this photo from the official Edward Tufte website. It shows his dog Ace visiting the gallery and taking stock of the dog works on display. I think it would be really great if he could be wearing a black turtleneck here. With maybe a pipe.

Tufte's dog Ace at ET Modern

And as a reference for some of Edward Tufte’s other work, this photo (also from his website) shows his landscape piece titled Dear Leader I. Three of his dogs are shown in the photo also, according to Mr. Tufte, to provide a sense of scale. But of course I think they make it better!

Dear Leader I by Edward Tufte, 2006

I’m really glad that someone I’ve admired for a long time turns out to be a pretty big dog person. But before I sign off here, I want to say a little bit more about information design, because most people don’t really know what that means. In the profession of graphic design, you will often meet people who don’t understand what it is you do exactly, but it basically boils down to the visual display of information. Sadly, the perception is your role is limited to “making business cards and brochures”. Here is an excellent example of information design, not designed by Edward Tufte but it’s one of his favorites and available to purchase for framing:

Napoleon's March to Moscow

The design of this poster reflects Napoleon’s winter march to Moscow in the War of 1812. On the left side, the top shape indicates the population of Napoleon’s army of 442,000 at the beginning of the campaign. As the march progresses to the right, markers along the route indicate position and the thinning of the band depicts shrinking troop size. When Napoleon’s men arrive in Moscow at the far right, they are down to 100,000 troops and their retreat path is shown in black. This ever-thinning band is tied to temperature and time, ultimately dwindling to just 10,000 troops when they arrive back at their starting point. In Mr. Tufte’s book, he states “it may well be the best statistical graphic ever drawn.” And maybe the most poignant.

If you’re interested in visiting Edward Tufte’s gallery in Chelsea, you can get the info here. Just one thing: I learned on my visit that this is a temporary gallery (they are unsure of just how long) so make your way there sooner than later. The great thing about its location is that it’s just steps from an entrance to the High Line, which I wrote about in my last post.

For information on Edward Tufte, any of his four books, projects, prints or lectures, visit his website here.

Edward Tufte's books

Typographic Tuesday: For Gwen Huneck

Quote by Thomas Campbell

Today’s quote is by Thomas Campbell, but it is dedicated to Gwen Huneck who passed away unexpectedly on Sunday. Although I never met her in person, through email correspondence she was very kind and helpful to me when I requested information for a post I did about her late husband’s work and their beautiful Dog Mountain in Vermont. You can see that post here.

I learned of Gwen’s death on Facebook because I follow their gallery page. This is what was shared:

“It is with heavy hearts that we share with our Dog Mountain community that our dear leader and friend, Gwendolyn Ide Huneck has passed away. Gwen never got over the loss of Stephen and missed him terribly every day. As you all know, after Stephen’s death, she devoted her life to continuing his legacy as a great artist. She continued to manage the gallery and she kept active in community affairs. She vowed to help turn St. Johnsbury into one of the most dog-friendly places in Vermont. Gwen became a beacon for people who had lost loved ones and pets and we think she absorbed a lot of that emotion and she may have had difficulty in releasing it. 

Many of you knew her as Gwen, Gwendolyn, and Mrs. Stephen Huneck. To us, she was “Gwennie.” Emails sent to the Gallery may not get checked regularly, but please post your condolences on the new Memorial Facebook page for Gwennie. This is a great, great loss and she will be sorely missed. We love you so much Gwennie and we will do everything we can to keep Dog Mountain going.”

So I chose this quote in honor of Gwen, because with all of the comfort and love she shared through Dog Mountain and Dog Chapel she will always shine. And I added the iconic black lab with angel wings created by her husband Stephen, because well, I think it might just be the most perfect circumstance for its use. Rest in peace, Gwen.

Gwen and Stephen Huneck

Photo courtesy and copyright Stephen Huneck Gallery.

If you would like to support the future of the Huneck’s Dog Mountain by donation or purchasing some wonderful artwork or other items, visit the gallery site here.

The Portraitsphere: Paul Boddum

R.P. by artist Paul Boddum

It’s Friday and a good time for an excursion into the Portraitsphere! This time we’re zipping off to Toronto, Canada to check out the work of artist Paul Boddum.

Lucy by artist Paul Boddum

Here is a portion of Paul’s artist statement as it relates to dogs in his work:

“The original idea for his twenty-four year ongoing series of dog works began during a trip to a dog show in the mid-1980’s. The source of Paul’s early works were photos he had taken there as well as sourcing vintage dog breed books at second hand book shops. Not having his own dog at the time, his ongoing series was influenced by oberving other city dwellers’ dogs; everyday joyful interactions between dogs, owners, and strangers had a unique positive energy that gave a big urban city a warmth and added to the fabric of a healthy community.

Paul is continually inspired by seeing people’s connection to their pets, how they enrich their lives, and become a part of their family. Growing up as an adoptee, Paul has always been interested in exploring the effects of nature versus nurture, and the transformative bond that forms from the domestic pet’s innate need to be cared for by others. Paul is also a long time vegetarian.”

Three Studies of Brody by artist Paul Boddum

Paul’s abstract paintings (without dogs) are also wonderful explorations of color and texture, expressionistic journeys influenced of memories, dreams and music. And when he combines this approach with the portrait of a dog, I find the result to be incredibly reassuring. A lot of people seem to request artist commissions of their dog after its passing, and by creating such a thoughtful background environment it seems very comforting to me. In other words, we’re not quite sure exactly where this place or space is because we can’t identify shapes or forms that are familiar to us, but it’s dreamlike and poetic. Our beloved is there, they’re safe, and it’s a beautiful image to behold.

Autumn by artist Paul Boddum

Summer by artist Paul Boddum

Katrina_Survivor

Jasper and Cooper by artist Paul Boddum

Paul works mostly in acrylics, adding thick layers of a gel medium at the end that creates an encaustic type of surface. Working from photos, he strives to make each painting a unique original customized to clients’ size, style and color requests. Although he’s based in Toronto much of his work is from outside of the area, ordered online. His paintings can be found in homes across the US, Canada, and internationally.

In addition to being a gifted artist, Paul is also big-hearted: he’s devoted to helping animal charities by donating portrait commissions and original paintings to raise money on a regular basis.

Here is a listing of Paul’s upcoming exhibitions if you would like to see his work in person.

You can visit Paul Boddum’s website here, to see more of his work.

All images courtesy and copyright Paul Boddum.