I was talking with another artist recently about artist statements; why we do the work we do, and how we articulate the reasons why we do the work we do. The artist statement is the bane of our existence. Never-ending, we are constantly re-examining and tweaking, editing it for every gallery we contact and each show we submit to, but never truly satisfied with it, and always readying for the next rewrite.
She had just re-written hers, and she read it to me. It was inspiring and eloquent, and made me think about my paltry little paragraph where I say that there is no deep meaning in my paintings – just dogs being dogs and people being people. She questioned that, pushing me to be more honest with myself. Really, you just paint dogs because you like them? Paintings are the outlet of the psyche, after all; surely there’s more to it.
It got me thinking about anthropomorphizing and how much I enjoy it. It tickles me to see dogs in bow ties or bowler hats (or both!). What’s up with that, anyway? (I mean, sure, I’m a woman in her mid-50s with no kids, but can’t I just love being a spinster?) Walking dogs in the afternoons, I see other dog walkers out there with dogs, and it occurred to me a year or so ago that they’re never talking to them. Other dog walkers don’t talk to their dogs. They just walk, in silence. I realized then how odd my conversiveness (which should be a word) must seem to other functioning adults, out in the world. Or kids, even. I was walking Barney and Frankie through a cleared path in a snowy sidewalk one day last week, explaining something to them (probably about the laws of physics and that they need to move over to let people pass) when a kid heading home from school, slouched under the weight of his backpack, stopped and straightened up and turned to me, saying “You know they don’t understand what you’re saying, right?” I immediately started laughing, and assured him that yes, I did realize that; but it also made me realize that there I was, out talking to dogs in public, again.
Lately, I’ve been making coats for my walkers. I set up a sewing corner in my studio, with a table, and cubbies for fabric and buttons and velcro and snaps, and on the cork board wall next to it I tack up the patterns I design for each, their names and measurements written clearly across them in pencil. I often think that I really should utilize the leftover fabric from each one. Is it obnoxious to make matching poop bag dispensers? But that soon leads to well, maybe a little hat or scarf…
No, no. Of course not. That’s a terrible idea. But it does bring me back to that question of what is in the depths of my subconscious that has me fascinated with painting dog faces — and in the same manner that I paint people faces. The various expressions, the humor, the sparkling eyes. Like they’re people, or something. Like there’s so much going on inside that noggin.
Well, there is. And tapping into it is truly fascinating. I still don’t have ten dollar words to explain in my artist statement why I paint dogs so much, but I’ll keep thinking about it. And talking to my walkers about it.