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This is a post from the weareoca.com archive. Information contained within it may now be out of date.

My work on elderly dogs sitting uneasily next to my work on a sense of forboding in my studio!

It was only a matter of time I suppose before I found myself reflecting on the potential for an inter relationship between the two main modes of my professional practice – my studio work and the work I do for the Open College of the Arts.
The research proposal for my MFA was around participation in art in the broadest possible sense; about taking time to come to some personal, fairly pragmatic conclusions about why anybody would want to experience art.
I’m fairly confident I have a good grasp of the wide variety of ‘paybacks’ (as it were) to making art in a studio or on one’s own. My focus is more on the spectrum of engagement that spans between me in my studio speaking a visual language of which I am the sole native speaker, and the audience member or gallery goer standing in front of an image and responding in silence.
My position is most certainly a work in progress, but there are many artists who seem to me to be navigating the territory with the respect and sensitivity that I aspire to. Jeremy Deller is an obvious choice, but Harrel Fletcher and Jon Rubin in works like ‘some people from around here’ also achieve something potent and yet with plenty of space around it. I suppose I am looking to forge a relationship with participants which is reciprocal and logical – ‘from each according to their abilities to each according to their needs’.
Some of you may remember me blogging a while ago about an attempt to pay homage in a way to people’s relationships with their elderly dogs. The project’s first incarnation failed to come to fruition. I drew seven dogs which was a good start but for one reason and another ended up giving the drawings to the owners before I could use them in a show or work out what I wanted from them. Logistics have been against me since then, with other versions, but I am still keen to see something happen.
Since then I have become more adventurous with participatory practices and this has brought me back to you. It occurred to me that you are both artists and dog owners and there must be a significant subset of artists with elderly dogs.
I was wondering whether you might be interested in collaborating with me to produce a website of images of elderly dogs, drawn in any medium or photographed if you are a photographer, stitched if you are a textile artist. In hopeful expectation I have set up a website called www.dogyears.com . If you would like to get involved, please email me a reasonably clear photo of your drawing or art work and ideally a photo of your dog too, along with their name and age, to emmadrye@gmail.com. If you post your actual image in real life in the post I might not be able to return it but if you do participate please keep your art work in case we get the opportunity later to present the work in a non virtual setting.
I hope some of you find this idea interesting and look forward to receiving contributions. On a practical note; dogs hate having their photo taken so you will need to get down low, to eye level and then take the photo quite quickly without staring them out too much beforehand. You may need someone else to help as I have found if you get down to eye level with a dog they tend to get up and come over for a cuddle or walk off in disgust (although the later is more true of cats).

Posted by author: Emma Drye
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13 thoughts on “Dogyears

  • Fun idea, Emma…we have two dogs each 11 years old so there is a lot of visual material here for this project….love to be involved
    Love the drawings

  • I like the climate of both drawings – subtle and gentle the one of the dog and much wilder and more expressive the one of the shark! Size also speaks volumes here:) Nice contrast.

  • We have two Gordon setters who are young at 5 and 2, I have done quite a lot of drawings and paintings of Gordons and have various pictures from friends of older Gordons,

  • Collaboration is in my mind at the moment. Speaking as an artist who has spent years alone in a studio creating work- some of which never gets seen- I feel the need to get involved in creative projects with other people this year. In the past when I have done that it has been incredibly exciting and rewarding- as well as frustrating, especially when it came to other people’s egos! One way not to let the frustrations get me down was to completely ‘go with the flow’ and not take control. Yet if one is too passive the project can run away completely. We are used to being our own bosses in our solitary practice but it is a whole different dynamic being involved with other creative minds and requires, I think, a certain set of skills. These skills are well worth investing in. It may be because I have had my feelers out that a couple of possibilities for collaboration have come up. I am quite excited by them as well as being a little daunted. One of the projects has been devised by two others and I have been invited in so, from the outset, I am assuming an initial listening role. This is a relief because it could be a gentle way back into collaboration.
    It would be good to see more students getting interested in collaborative work. Good luck with yours, Emma. Pity I don’t have a dog!

    • that sounds nice – a gentle route into collaboration. I am working on a collaborative curatorial project just now and it is very hard to navigate through to something coherent and respectful of everyone’s contributions.

  • I have a number of Watercolors and ipad paintings of dogs we have had and those we presently own. One we now own is 10 years old and another that died at age 16. I can send images. How many are you looking for? I would love to share these paintings and photographs of these beloved dogs.

    • That would be fantastic Kate. Please send as many as you like. I’ve just received my first contribution and it came with a lovely sentence about the dog in the drawing so I think I would like to continue with that and include a little bit of narrative for these great old survivors.

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