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You don't have to be a dog lover to be constantly reminded of how many people are, but I never really thought about how dogs have been a major subject in the arts for literally thousands of years.
Laumeier Sculpture Park had an exhibition this past summer entitled "Dog Days of Summer". The exhibition was both inside in the galleries and had an outdoor installation by Tea Makipaa on the nature trail. The exhibition included "yappy hours" for dogs and their human counterparts, dog and human look-alike contests, and numerous dog related vendors and rescue organizations. There are even dog memberships now and according to the director of Laumeier, Marilu Knode, the exhibition drew a tremendously large audience. The "yappy hours" alone drew at least 100 humans and 50 dogs per event.
City Garden and Laumeier collaborated on showing William Wegman videos at City Garden. In 1970, painter, photographer and conceptual artist Wegman began making videos with his Weimaraner, Man Ray, named after the influential American artist of the first half of the 20th century. Man Ray became a central figure in Wegman's photgraphy and videos and remained so until he passed away in 1981, when the next generation of Weimaraners took place.
In an article on the internet by author Tamsin Pickeral states:"Five thousand years seems like an eternally long period of time, and it certainly is when you have your publisher breathing fire down your neck and muttering about word numbers and lack of space, but actually viewed within the context of our history, 5,000 years is relatively shorter when looking at archaeological evidence of domestic dog and the earliest discovered human/canine relationships which date back to around 14,000 thousand years ago."
Pickeral goes on to say, "It was with some hesitation then that the dog, our most beloved companion, first started to appear in the arts, but after an initially slow start, the dog became one of the most frequently painted animals. They appeared at first as subsidiary to the primary subject of art works, slinking into the canvas to hover up crumbs from beneath laden tables, licking clean the feet of religious figures or accompanying bold warriors on hunting expeditions and dogs were frequently included in paintings to convey a symbolic message, most often being representative of qualities such as fidelity, love and servitude."
There is no end to the list one can purchase on dogs on Amazon.com. Just a sampling of titles include,"Dog Painting: The European Breeds", "Sit! Ancestral Dog Portraits”, "Dogs in English Porcelain of the 19th Century," and "The Artful Dog: Canines from The Metropolitan Museum of Art".
And I'll bet few St. Louisans realize that The American Kennel Club Museum is located in beautiful Queeny Park in west St.Louis County. It's home to the world's finest collection of art devoted to the dog. The 14,000 square foot facility, which includes historic Jarville House displays over 700 original paintings, drawings, watercolors, prints, sculptures, bronzes, and porcelain figurines, and a variety of decorative arts objects, depicting man's best friend throughout the ages.
So to all you dog lovers, whether your pooch yaps, barks, or woofs and you can't take enough photos of "Fido", just know that you are continuing an age old tradition.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Arts Aficionado Nancy Kranzberg has been involved in the arts community for some thirty years. She serves on numerous arts affiliated boards, including The St. Louis Art Museum, Laumeier Sculpture Park where she is the Co-Chair, The Sheldon Arts Foundation and the Sheldon Art Gallery Board, Jazz at the Bistro, The Missouri Mansion Preservation Inc., The Mid American Arts Alliance, and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. Nancy was named Women of Achievement and was awarded the Distinguished Alumnae Award at Washington University Nancy is a docent at the St. Louis Art Museum and is an honorary docent at Laumeier Sculpture Park. At age 60 she became a Jazz singer. She performs with the Second Half which features Chancellor Tom George on the piano.