The Challenge

Over the past 40 years of my life, I have purchased and collected more than 500 pieces of art. This collection includes drawings, paintings, sculptures, fiber art pieces, posters, photographs, tribal animal fetishes, lithographs, chromolithographs, serigraphs and more. It embraces a diversity of styles: Impressionism and Postimpressionism, Expressionism, Realism, Minimalism, Symbolism, Abstract Art, Op, Pop and Psychedelic Art as well as Folk, Tribal and Outsider Art. My taste in art is, quite obviously, varied.

About a month ago, my curator friend Mary, who’s very familiar with my collection, made the following observation. “Patrick, you have such a large collection of artwork. Have you ever thought of displaying part of your collection publicly beyond your online shop Dogbotz Boneyard?”

Wow! I thought to myself. “There’s so much, Mary, I wouldn’t know where to begin.”

“Ok, I can appreciate that,” Mary responded. “So, let’s limit the parameters. If I said to you, select three pieces of art from, say, five different artists, what would you select? And why?”

Yup, that certainly simplifies things, I mumbled to myself. Fifteen pieces out of more than 500! “Let me think about it, Mary. I’m not an art historian or critic, so I’m not sure my selections would have much meaning to folks other than me.”

“You don’t need to be a historian or critic. But, other people — collectors and not — are always intrigued as to what others see in the art they acquire, whether they hold the same opinion or perspective,” Mary said.

So, I agreed to Mary’s challenge and after several weeks, I had made my decisions. Please note that I value and cherish all the artists and their works that I’ve collect throughout the years, but the five artists I’ve chosen hold a very special place in my heart because their works speak to the essence of my own mortal journey. Also, please know that the artists below are listed alphabetically by last name to avoid any artificial ranking system.

Philip Gladstone

Intensely intimate is the first phrase that comes to mind when I contemplate the artwork of Maine artist Philip Gladstone. Whether it’s a man and his dog sitting or leaning on the edge of bathtub (Brady’s Bath), or a naked young man seated on the floor with a teddy bear beside him, both connected by a ball of yarn (Love Me), or a bare-chested young man leaning on a rooftop air-conditioning unit while another gentleman works in an adjacent rooftop office (Dusk), I feel as if I’ve entered, in a voyeuristic way, a very private moment in the lives of each of these individuals. My mind is intrigued by each scene, wanting to know more about each subject, whereas my spirit at a very intuitive level understands wholeheartedly the story being told.

Philip Gladstone’s paintings have been compared to Caravaggio, Pablo Picasso and Diego Rivera, to name a few stylistic influences. I perceive those qualities in many of his works, but in the end, for me, it’s all about the underlying stories, many of which have erotic tension and undertones. And I find that quite compelling, especially in a world titillated by the pornographic yet oblivious to the sensual.

Bradys Bath 0061 B 0515

Brady’s Bath

Dusk 0063 B 0515

Dusk

Love Me 0064 B 0515

Love Me

Kathleen Kills Thunder

Of all the artists whose works I’ve collected, I have purchased the most pieces from Kathleen Kills Thunder. Coming from a Native American heritage, I immediately relate to the themes, subjects, and symbolism of her paintings. Though I also have many of her beadwork and jewelry pieces, I find Kathleen Kills Thunder’s paintings to be ideal icons for reflection and meditation. I admire her works because of the manner in which she blends a bright color palette, which, in part, reflects her Spanish heritage, and her imaginative use of Native American subjects, from the creatures of Earth Mother (Queenie and Babies) to tribal craftswomen, from war ponies (The Warrior Horses’ Last Battle) to medicine men (Peyote Man). Her compositions are brilliant with color, fluid with geometric shapes and natural forms, and profoundly reflective of the human experience and its inherent truths. Her paintings speak with the ancient language of the spirit world made modern by the abstract techniques of waking dreams.

Of the fifteen art pieces that I have chosen to honor my friend Mary’s request (and for this blog), three paintings are particularly dear to my spirit. The Warrior Horses’ Last Battle is the first of them. Here’s why.

I have worked in various capacities for twenty-plus years now in the nonprofit charitable world. I have been a dental clinic office manager of an AIDS/HIV center in Milwaukee, where I saw folks battling the harsh realities of a life-threatening illness while struggling to move away from being treated as pariahs into a place of acceptance and love. I have been a director of fundraising and marketing for a senior center in northern Illinois, where I have seen our elders struggle to maintain independence, dignity, and self-respect while faced with the illnesses that come with old age and the depression that emerges as they see their circles of spouses and friends dwindle before their very eyes. I have also worked at a hospice in Illinois, where I often witnessed the final journeys of people, from 6-month-old infants to young mothers afflicted with cancer to the elderly, who struggled with and finally embraced the process of letting go.

At a very subliminal level, the two horses of The Warrior Horses’ Last Battle struggling to remain alive reminds me of the sometimes difficult challenges we face throughout our own journeys, and that the ramifications of truth haunt me, in a healthy way, to the very marrow of my bones. That may not have been her intent in creating this piece of artwork, but I am still thankful that Kathleen Kills Thunder had the inclination to paint it anyway.

Peyote Man

Peyote Man

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Queenie and Babies

Warrior Horses 0206 B 114

The Warrior Horses’ Last Battle

David Silva

Nine months ago, the name David Silva would have meant nothing to me. Had it not been for Jason, another of my art collector friends, the name would still remain a mystery to me to this very day. Knowing that I enjoy Pop art, Jason recommended that I peruse the charcoal and colored pencil works of contemporary Brazilian Pop artist David Silva at a well-known online website, and so I did. I was delighted by what I saw and thus acquired several David Silva drawings.

I greatly appreciate the artwork of David Silva because of the diverse subjects he portrays through his Pop art images and the emotional content emanating therefrom. Sometimes he presents the viewer with a subtle mystery; other times, with playful and erotic vibrations; and yet in other works, with the haunting reality of loss and grief. Be it Batman and Superman in amorous embrace (Unspoken Love Affair between Superman and Batman — I wonder what the folks at D.C. Comics would have to say), a sailor getting ready to depart on his next cruise (In the Navy — very Village People, for sure), or a young child’s hand reaching for the dog tags of a deceased soldier-father (For Whom the Bells Tolls), the artist reveals his joy, his compassion, and his humanity.

For those unfamiliar with Pop art, it is an art style that uses aspects of the larger or mass culture, such as advertising, comic books, TV cartoon characters and other mundane cultural images or objects to emphasize the more banal or “kitschy” qualities of the culture it inherently mocks. Irony is the most popular expression used by Pop artists. Among David Silva’s work, the Pop art element of irony makes sense for such drawings as In the Navy or Unspoken Love Affair between Superman and Batman. But what about his other drawing, For Whom the Bells Tolls?

With great sadness, I must admit that, in this war-beleaguered age in which we live, a scene focusing on the demise of a soldier has become all too familiar, all too casual, and to which we have become all too desensitized. Ironic, perhaps; Pop, disquietingly so. But, I believe that, in For Whom the Bells Tolls, David Silva depicts a shockingly profound sense of grief that we must admit, embrace and then manifest its inherent lesson so we can attain a world peace that transcends political and religious diatribes, the unrelenting need for greed, and the blinding desire for revenge. For Whom the Bells Tolls is the second piece of the fifteen I’ve selected that touches my soul in a most insightful way.

For Whom the Bell Tolls 0384 B 0915

For Whom the Bell Tolls

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In the Navy

Siperman and Batman 0385 B 0915

Unspoken Love Affair between Superman and Batman

Judy Thorley

Several years ago, I decided to turn my collector’s eye north to my neighbors in Canada. I found some truly gifted artists throughout that country creating some spectacular pieces of art. One of my personal favorites is Judy Thorley, a signature member of the Toronto Watercolour Society. Although Judy Thorley originally began painting in transparent watercolor, she presently explores mixed media with acrylics, collage and photo transfer. She enjoys working on distressed surfaces with multiple layers, and she is inspired by many things, both natural and manmade, from decaying old walls covered with peeling posters to the latest fashion magazines.

To me, Judy Thorley’s works have an Art Nouveau quality, wherein she establishes a unique balance of the natural with the manmade or manufactured (Pandora), the architectural with the figurative (Chained), and the established with the innovative (Chivalry). Her use of multiple layers of colorful elements, distressed surfaces, and uneven textures evokes scenes that portray mythical subjects or images that harken back to another era (which is true of the three pieces selected).

Judy Thorley is one of the few artists whose works that I collect for which I do not prefer one of her pieces over another. All have great merit, and I enjoy taking the time to just “inhale,” if you will, the essence of each one.

Chained 0045 B 0315

Chained

Chivalry 0050 B 0315

Chivalry

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Pandora

Roger Wedegis

I just can’t help myself! I am a longtime, avid dog-lover, especially of Labrador Retrievers, who I’ve always humorously called “the drinking buddies” of dogs. So, when I discovered the artwork of Roger Wedegis, himself a self-acclaimed lover of Labs, I was immediately taken with his canine compositions. I am deeply touched by Roger Wedegis’s paintings because of his capacity to capture the playful nature (In the Hibiscus), the loyal companionship (I’m Ready), and even the ineffable spiritual dimension of community (Spirits in the Night) that these four-legged creatures share with us, their human cousins. Whether portrayed in a natural or urban setting, the artist’s subjects gently remind me of why dogs have for millennia been our best friends and most devoted guardians.

Spirits in the Night is the third painting of the fifteen pieces I selected that I find especially endearing. Are the three Labrador Retrievers looking at Grandmother Moon real dogs or are they the spirits intimated in the title of the painting? In the end, does it really matter? For me, no, as the genuine heart-felt message I discover is to take the time to remember and honor those canine companions who show or have shown me the awe of unconditional love and to reflect that vibration back, like the light of the Moon, to all life.

Im Ready 0350 B 0915

I’m Ready

In the Hibiscus 0144 B 1115

In the Hibiscus

Spirits in the Night 0146 B 1115

Spirits in the Night

So, there you have it: my response to my friend Mary’s art challenge! But, again remember that I genuinely admire all the artwork I’ve collected over the years, which I hope to share in future blogs.

All the best,

Patrick Price,
Proprietor,
Dogbotz Boneyard, LLC
www.dogbotz.com

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Native American Fetishes: Honoring Nature and Spirit

As I was re-arranging various objects in my glass curio cabinet the other day, my electrician friend Chuck from our local Chamber of Commerce stopped by for a cup of coffee and to chat about some upcoming decisions the Chamber wanted to make about membership. As we conversed, Chuck joined me at my curio cabinet, curious about all the items I was dusting off and putting back into it.

“What are all those little stone animals?” Chuck asked.

“Why they’re Native American nature fetishes,” I replied casually. “Some I keep for myself, while others I offer through Dogbotz Boneyard.”

“Oh, really?” he said. “I’m not sure what you mean by a fetish. Are they like Southwestern Indian Kachina dolls? Do they serve the same purpose? Or, are these just fun pieces to buy while visiting a reservation, or from your online store?” He chuckled.

Hmm . . . good questions, I thought. So here’s the essence of what I shared with him, and now with you.

A fetish in many Native American traditions (particularly that of the Zuni Nation of the American Southwest whose artisans are among the most skilled carvers) is an animal, bird, reptile, or other cultural icon hand-carved from stone, shell, wood, antler or other natural materials. These carvings have traditionally served a ceremonial purpose for those who created them. Each creature or figure is believed to have inherent powers or qualities that may aid the owner. The Navajo, for example, treasured and bartered for figures of horses, sheep, cattle or goats to protect their herd from disease and to ensure fertility. A Plains Indian fetish of a buffalo, as another example, is known to help the warrior who seeks buffalo to feed and clothe his family and community have a successful hunt. The fetish, which contains the spirit of the animal it denotes, is placed in a buckskin bag and carried by the hunter over his heart. Here are two examples: the first carved from picture jasper, the second from dragon septarian.

Picture Jasper Buffalo 0053 A 0315Dragon Septarian Buffalo Fetish 0091 A 1115

In the Zuni tradition, the carvers of nature fetishes believe that the creature represented in the carving requires periodic feeding. Thus, gifts of cornmeal and ground turquoise are offered to the fetish, which may be kept in a clay pot until used. Very delicate fetishes, though, are often carried in a pocket or medicine bag or pouch (see example below).

Zuni Horse Fetish 0083 C 1115

Also, in fact, many Zuni fetishes are inlaid with turquoise to represent the eyes or mouth of an animal, the heart-line of the sacred breath of life that enters through the mouth and into the belly the animal, or as “belt bundle.” The bobcat, wolf and bear fetishes below show the different uses of turquoise in a Zuni fetish.

Zuni Bobcat Fetish 0090 A 1115Zuni Howling Wolf 0087 B 1115Zuni Standing Bear 0089 C 1115

Today, as a form of contemporary Native American art, small stone fetishes are sold with secular intentions to collectors worldwide (see opalite coyote and tiger-eye snake fetishes below). These fetishes are often displayed so other people may observe the beauty of the fetish. Also, many collectors purchase the fetishes of creatures who spiritual power they wish to express in their own journeys. And so the spiritual essence of the fetish remains alive and dynamic even though the traditional practice of storing or feeding a fetish may no longer be practiced by non-Native Americans.

Opalite Coyote 0051 C 0315Tiger Eye Snale 0055 B 0315

For those who seeks to honor the inherent divine spirit of nature, fetishes are ideal, especially during the practice of meditation, when one seeks healing and guidance, as well as during personal or group ceremonies and celebrations.

All the best,

Patrick Price,
Proprietor,
Dogbotz Boneyard, LLC
www.dogbotz.com