Dogs' Houses: How Country Dogs Live
1998 - 2000
I miss the days when Ellis and I had time to drive all over the country by our farm, taking photos and becoming familiar with our little corner of southwest Wisconsin. I realized from these drives that rural dogs become invisible - just a part of the scenery you drive by while you're admiring the hills or fall leaves. Many rural dogs lead miserable, lonely lives, chained to outdoor houses. I painted this series of images so people would SEE THEM. A recurrent theme in my work is how to reconcile the desire to make beautiful paintings with the desire to expose ugly truths. I think I failed some of my dog subjects by "prettifying" their situation too much.
Some of the images are a bit blurry - these paintings sold pretty well, and predate my digital camera, so I had many old painting slides put onto a disc and, alas, they are not perfect.
image 9 1/4" x 10"
Unfortunately, this beagle really was dead, frozen to her house, when we discovered her.
image 7 1/4" x 8"
This dog lived in a yard with 5 or 6 other hunting dogs, all separated from each other, chained to their own little houses.
image 10" x 8"
I didn't have the heart to paint the mounds of feces these little dogs were standing in.
image 7 1/2" x 9"
This dog is a Plotz Hound - a breed used to hunt bears. He's a number to his owner, and spends most of his life, along with many others on the property, chained to a makeshift blue box.
42" x 48"
This painting isn't part of the Dogs' Houses series - it preceded it. I saw a yard full of roosters tethered to blue plastic barrels in Hawaii - no doubt part of the illegal cock fighting industry. They were guarded by a Doberman. Painting that dog by his or her house led me to focusing on rural dogs and their sometimes very sad living situations.