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Paws and Reflect: Art of Canines

September 2 - November 30, 2008


Paws and Reflect: Art of Canines is an appealing exhibit of 47 paintings and 25 sculptures opening today at The R.W. Norton Art Gallery. The display features flatworks in acrylic, gouache, mixed media, oil, pencil, scratchboard, and watercolor along with bronze sculptures. (right: Joy Beckner, Life is a Sweet Thing (Dachshunds))

The works of thirty artists were chosen for their diverse subject matter, creative combinations of composition and design, extraordinary technique and resulting style. Each artist is represented by two or three works to demonstrate his/her versatility and range of artistic treatment. Louisiana's own George Rodrigue is included with two of his famous "Blue Dog" paintings.

Canines are carnivorous mammals that include domestic dogs, wolves (the ancestors of dogs), the African wild dog or dingo, coyotes, foxes, and jackals. The exhibit includes thirteen depictions of wolves, nine of foxes, and four of coyotes.

Wolves were formerly the most widely distributed terrestrial mammal in the world. There are many wolf subspecies, the two main ones being the gray wolf and the red wolf. There are thirteen depictions of wolves in the exhibit.

Similar in appearance and sometimes called the prairie wolf, the coyote is found in deserts, prairies, open woodlands, wetlands, and brush country. It is common throughout most of Alaska, Canada, the entire lower forty-eight United States and Central America. Foxes are found almost worldwide with most species belonging to the red fox group. The exhibit includes nine foxes and four coyotes.

There are forty-two domestic dogs in eighteen breeds shown in the exhibition, including the Afghan, Australian Shepherd, Border Collie, Dachshund, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Great Dane, Greyhound, Labrador Retriever, Pointer, Poodle, Pug, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Russell Terrier, Schnauzer, Setters, Sheltie, and a Yorkshire Terrier.


(above: Lindsay Foggett, Harmony (Wolves))


Tour itinerary

May 6 - June 15, 2007
Dunnegan Gallery of Art, Bolivar, MO
July 14 - October 14, 2007
The Wildlife Experience, Parker, CO
November 24, 2007 - May 11, 2008
Canton Museum of Art, Canton, OH
June 1 - July 20, 2008
Bergstrom-Mahler Art Museum, Neenah, WI
September 2 - November 30, 2008
The R.W. Norton Art Gallery, Shreveport, LA
January 3 - March 29, 2009
The Spartanburg County Museum of Art, Spartanburg, SC
April 26 - June 14, 2009
New Visions Gallery, Marshfield, WI
July 4 - August 30, 2009
Elizabeth de C. Wilson Museum, Southern Vermont Arts Center
Manchester, VT
November 7, 2009 ­ January 3, 2010
Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure, Salina, KS
January 15 - March 15, 2010
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson, AZ

(above: Paula Waterman, Girl Talk (Poodle, Parsons Russell Terrier, Sheltie))


Canidae information

-- Edited by: Carel P. Brest van Kempen and Rob Mullen

Canines are carnivorous mammals that include domestic dogs, wolves (the ancestors of dogs), wild dogs (e.g., the African wild dog or dingo), coyotes, foxes, and jackals. Together these animals constitute the family Canidae. A species within that family is called a "canid." The word "canine" is usually used as an adjective in formal, technical language. Informally, it is used as a synonym for "canid." The word "breed" is intended to designate varieties of animals or plants within a species engineered by man (as opposed to the word "species," which designates natural varieties). In scientific nomenclature (naming), the first and capitalized name is the genus name. The second un-capitalized name is the species; then comes the subspecies if any. Some authorities, including the American Society of Mammalogists, classify domestic dogs as a subspecies of gray wolf, giving it the scientific name Canis lupus familiaris.

Dogs are distinguished from wild canines by their worldwide distribution in close association with humans and by their enormous genetic variability and physical variation. All canids possess similar potential for such genetic variability. However, human intervention in the form of guided selection has allowed this to be expressed to its fullest potential in dogs. By picking the most friendly and trainable wolves, humans created the dog. Some of the most beloved physical traits we associate with dogs are puppy features such as floppy ears, large eyes, and soft fur. It is probable that the dog was the first animal to be domesticated. Archeologists have discovered strong evidence that domestication began in the form of cooperative association between wolves and humans approximately 15,000 years ago, and that the earliest dogs resembled something like the dingo (found in Australia) or perhaps the Asian wolf, though it is entirely possible that domestication could have arisen independently in other parts of the world.

During the centuries that ensued, dogs were selectively bred for submissiveness and trainability, and used in any number of ways: draft animals, guard dogs, attack dogs, rescue dogs, shepherds, retrievers, guide dogs, and companions. Today, the American Kennel Club recognizes more than 150 of the more than 2,000 known breeds of dogs. The AKC has grouped these into eight classes: Sporting, Non-sporting, Hound, Terrier, Working, Herding, Toy, and Miscellaneous. Purebreds conform to the standards of the respective breed the pedigree of which has been recorded for a certain period of time. Dogs of mixed origin are called mongrels. Domestic dogs vary in size from the tiny Chihuahua, the tiniest of which, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, has been recorded at less than 6" long, to the enormous English mastiff, which has been recorded as large as 282 pounds. Dogs have a variety of body types, hair lengths, colors and patterns, not to mention attitudes, behaviors and activities that make them wonderful subjects for art.

Wolves were formerly the most widely distributed terrestrial mammal in the world. There are many wolf subspecies, the two main ones being the gray wolf and the red wolf. Similar in appearance and sometimes called the prairie wolf, the coyote (Canis latrans) is considered by many experts a separate species altogether, even though coyotes, wolves, and dogs can all produce fertile offspring when crossed with each other. Among the factors considered for that choice are dental patterns and gene frequencies. Still, other experts consider coyotes to be a wolf subspecies. The problem stems from the fact that taxonomy (the classification of organisms) is an abstraction of nature for science rather than nature itself, and as such, doesn't match nature perfectly. The gray wolf (Canis lupus), also called the timber wolf in North America, resembles a long-legged cross somewhat between a German shepherd, malamute or husky, with a shaggy coat, erect ears, and a bushy tail. Ruthless hunting exacerbated by bounties nearly exterminated the gray wolf in the lower 48 United States. Today, its very existence is a hot point of contention even in sparsely populated areas such as Wyoming.

The coyote is found in deserts, prairies, open woodlands, wetlands, and brush country. Resembling a medium-sized dog with a pointed face, thick fur, and a black-tipped, bushy tail, the coyote is common throughout most of Alaska and Canada, the entire lower forty-eight United States, and Central America. Though reduced in number in New England before conservation, coyotes have re-emerged there in recent time. Ironically, coyotes there tend to be larger than in the West. Some researchers theorize that those coyotes have crossed with dogs and wolves, and that this accounts for their size; others theorize this is a result of greater food availability. Considered dangerous to livestock, coyotes have been and continue to be killed by the thousands each year. Among Native Peoples of North America, coyotes hold special status as "tricksters."

Foxes are found worldwide, except Antarctica and the Australasian region. Most belong to the red fox group, though other species also exist as shown in this exhibition. These include the true foxes of the genus Vulpes, which are distributed throughout the Northern Hemisphere, as well several unrelated groups of small canines, including the American gray foxes.


(above: Nicholas Wilson, A Last Look (Red Fox))

Editor's note:

The exhibition Paws and Reflect: Art of Canines was curated by David J. Wagner, Ph.D. and produced by David J. Wagner, L.L.C. Dr. Wagner is also directing the exhibit's nationwide tour.

RL readers may also enjoy from TFAO's Topics in American Representational Art:


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