Saturday, June 23, 2018

Year of the Dog Exchange

This was the first year I participated in the Baren Forum for Wood Block Printmaking's Chinese New Year exchange. I finished and mailed out my contribution at the end of January. The trickle of small prints from the other participants began that month and finished up about a week ago when I received this last one from Leigh Beatty titled Waiting. It turned out to be one of my two favorites. My other favorite below is Cemetery of the Innocent (32) by Linden Langdon.

I like both of these prints because they are not cute dogs. I'm a printmaker who has made a lot of cat prints that are explicitly not cute, and now I'm working my way into making dog prints, and I'd like those to not be cute either. Which is to say, I'd like get a little more to the heart of what these beings are as animals. Yes, they are affectionate household companions, too, but they were bred from fearsome predators, and their relationships with humans are far more complex and interesting than could be ascertained by most cat and dog posters and gift books.

In Beatty's dog print, the dog is staring up at presumably the owner. I guess it is the owner because of the intensity of that almost desperate stare. The title is "waiting", and indeed the dog is in great anticipation of something. Maybe food, maybe a walk, or maybe some simple affection from that person they are most devoted to in the world. Any way about it, this desire is a deeply-rooted yearning, and the red and black colors with the zigzag carpet pattern help to convey the primal nature of this animal's patiently-endured hunger.

Langdon's image is more subdued, but equally serious. I feel there is something otherworldly about this image, as if I could float right through the landscape like an unseen spirit. The dog is turned away, not hearing or perceiving my observation of them. They seem focused on something else beyond my own vision, maybe small and in the grass, or perhaps farther away. This dog is in many ways the opposite of the one above; distant, dark, and self-possessed.

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