Sunday, June 21, 2009

ArtsBuzz: Hollywood center offers art with a canine touch

Bowman Hastie and his dog, Tillie, the artist.
(Photo by Katie Deits)

By Katie Deits

HOLLYWOOD -- Bowman Hastie, a writer and editor in Brooklyn, discovered by chance that his Jack Russell terrier had artistic talent.

An observant Hastie noticed his dog, named Tillamook Cheddar, or Tillie for short, scratching on a writing pad. Curious as to the patterns Tillie was creating, Hastie pulled out some carbon paper from a drawer and placed it between the papers of the pad.

Tillie went to work scratching away, and when Hastie removed the carbon, he was astounded at the artistic quality of what had resulted. Thus commenced Tillie's art career, and with the advice of an artist friend, Hastie then added color to his dog's palette.

The terrier's scratchings are recorded on a pigment-coated piece of vellum, which is then attached to a sheet of lithograph paper backed by mat board. Tillie then uses her teeth and claws to apply pressure, creating the lines and patterns which dominate her masterpieces.

Today, Tillie is billed as the “world’s preeminent dog artist.” She has been featured in national and international magazines, on television shows as far away as Japan, and even had her own exhibit in a New York City gallery.

Now her accidental art is the focus of a museum show at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood. Friday night, Tillie and Hastie were welcoming visitors to the center as the dog dashed excitedly around the galleries. The Tillamook Cheddar Mid-Career Retrospective 1999-2009 is part of the center's summer theme, which revolves around art associated with canines.

Hollywood-based artist Virginia Fifield, with her drawings.
(Photo by Katie Deits)

For instance, also featured at the center is The Pneumatikos Series, six large (4-foot-by-3-foot) charcoal drawings of dogs by Virginia Fifield, a Hollywood-based artist. Pneumatikos, Fifield explains, means "breath of the spirit" in Greek, and is used to mean the presence of God.

"Through realism and scale, my intent is to first draw the viewer to the image…but then into a deeper contemplation of the true nature and spirit of the subjects of these drawings, to provoke consideration and questioning of our illusion of ownership, dominance and control of the world and the beings that share it with us," she wrote.

Fort Lauderdale gallery owner Mary Ellen Charapko, who represents Fifield, said the artist's works "emit an inner spirit that will stop you in your tracks. Fifield has the ability to draw you into their apprehensions, moods, desires and inner beauty.”

Two other rooms at the center are filled with paintings, photographs, drawings and videos of pets. It’s a Dog’s Life is a collection of dog-themed, contemporary works from the private collection of Francie Bishop Good and Davis Horvitz. Another room is a community-based show titled We Love Pets, in which the community was invited to display images of pets.

The dog-related exhibits run through Sunday, Aug. 16.

The Art and Culture Center of Hollywood is located at 1650 Harrison St. in Hollywood. Gallery hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m., to 5 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. Admission is free for members, $7 for adults and $4 for students, seniors and children ages 4-13. Gallery admission is free to all on the third Sunday of every month. For more information, visit, or call (954) 921-3274.

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