Year of the Dog: Exploring Human-Canine Bonding Through Art

18 September 2018

Edna Newey

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    When was the last time that you felt pure, naïve happiness? More than likely the answer is when you last saw a dog.

    Year of the Dog: Exploring Human-Canine Bonding through Art went on exhibit at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College May 19 and was put on in collaboration with the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region.

Bella by Monique Crine at the Fine Arts Center at Colorado College. Photo by Oliver Adon – The Scribe

    The exhibit features artists such as Nick Cave, Monique Crine, Shannon Johnstone, Frank and Sharon Romero and Ralph Scala. Each artist presents a different aspect of interaction with dogs, ranging from typical affection to heartbreaking neglect.

    “I feel connected to all of the works and artists in the show because each piece represents a different aspect of the human-animal relationship—I can empathize with the feelings they elicit,” said Joy Armstrong, Curator of the Fine Arts Center.

    The webpage for the exhibit reads, “Through the power of visual art, it opens an opportunity for dialogue surrounding the ways in which we can all strive to live more compassionately for the benefit of all sentient beings and the world in which they inhabit.”

    While there are certainly whimsical aspects to the exhibit, such as Crine’s oil portraits of dogs, the Fine Arts Center does not shy away from the harsher aspects of the human/dog experience.

    Armstrong said, “I wanted to explore human animal-relationships, focusing specifically on dogs, but didn’t want to produce an exhibition that was superficial or ‘fluffy.’”

   When a person first enters the gallery the first piece that they see are Scala’s ceramic dogs. The dogs have excitement in their postures, their bodies painted with pastel and bright colors of happiness.

Rosco by Monique Crine. Photo by Oliver Adon – The Scribe

    Upon further inspection, the viewer sees an emaciated body and so an invitation to look closer on the plight of dogs and act.

    The discomfort is further instilled with Johnstone’s cyanotypes. The knee jerk reaction is that the ashen white circles that lay against a background of brilliant blue do not fit with the rest of the exhibit. But when the method of design is revealed, the pieces become visceral and cavernous in their meaning.

    Some might try to shy away from the fact that such unwarranted cruelty can happen to innocent creatures, but not the Fine Arts Center.

    “I wanted to communicate universal themes through visual imagery of dogs and therefore pursued artists who deeply engage with issues of disposability, prejudice and respect for life,” says Armstrong.

    The Fine Arts Center, in acknowledging the plight of dogs, has taken the opportunity to become a conduit for the benefit of dogs and their people through advocacy.

    As students, we stress the benefit of emotional support animals for those who need them. But what of the dogs that need us to emotionally support them?

    Armstrong stresses the capacity for students not only by volunteering, but also by coming to participate in the events that the Fine Arts Center is hosting.

    Year of the Dog lasts until October 11. Students can gain admission free of charge.  Since the arts center is just a short walk from the Nevada/Cache la Poudre intersection, there is no reason not to  go for a lazy afternoon around the galleries.

Perro by Ralph Scala. Photo by Oliver Adon – The Scribe

    Other events will be held at the Fine Arts Center in conjecture with the exhibit, including a discussion with one of the artists and dog yoga.

    A schedule of these events is available at the Fine Arts Center.

    Armstrong hopes that this exhibit will tell students, “Remember that your actions and words have power, and choosing to engage in a thoughtful, kind, compassionate manner can make a real difference.”