Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Dog Art

"Hazel in Heaven", approx. 4 x 2.75m

And now… Time for something completely different! Normally I work with kids in my mural projects, so going to a nursing home for the last few ones was already quite a change. But working in close company with dogs was something else altogether. This mural was painted at the Unidos para los Animales dog and cat shelter high up in the mountains above Antigua Guatemala. It’s a beautiful spot where lost, injured or abandoned dogs and cats find a safe and warm home. For most animals it’s a just a temporary home. A lot of the dogs are up for adoption, but not all. The “porch dogs” are there to stay but don’t seem to mind at all.
Work in progress at the Unidos para los Animales shelter
The place is spacious, green and clean. I’ve been wanting to paint a mural here for a while now, because I really appreciate this organization. I’ve been fostering puppies for them for over a year now, so I know from up close what wonderful work Linda Green and Terry Kovick Biskovich do. And no, the mural isn’t necessarily for the dogs but for the staff, the visitors and many volunteers (including kids) who pass through. Although, I must say, the canine feedback was great. Lots of licks and cuddles. There was criticism too, if peeing on a mural counts as disapproval. I understand. The mural was painted in Chico and Molly’s run and the art work doesn’t depict either of them. My apologies, guys!
Tiny little Chico and yours truly

 The depicted dog is in fact Hazel. I wanted to paint her the first time I met her, with her bumpy head, endless hunger, huge expressive eyes and fun loving character. When Linda posted a picture of Hazel “with eyes begging for treats from heaven”, I was definitely sold. Hazel was going to go up a wall!
Hazel, begging for treats from heaven. Photo by Linda Green
Unfortunately, Hazel passed away a few weeks ago. She wasn't quite well when she was rescued off the street about six months ago. However, she did find a family that wanted to adopt her despite all of her medical problems. In the meantime Hazel was to stay at the shelter until she would be recovered enough to go on her life changing journey. Unfortunately that trip never happened. A few weeks ago, Hazel got really sick. She spent a few days at the vet who concluded there was nothing more that could be done. She was obviously in pain, so the difficult decision was made to put Hazel to rest. A very sad moment, but it made me even more determined to put Hazel up a wall.
Got some help un-plastering the wall!
And so I did.The work was fun and easy going. Okay, the stucco wasn't quite as sturdy as it looked at first glance, so it had to come off. But one advantage of working at an animal rescue is that you get to take your (foster) dog to work.
Foster pup Little Bee a little blue on the butt (collateral damage of mural painting)
The work is done! Now the title is no longer “Hazel Begging for Treats from Heaven” but “Hazel in Heaven”. I hope she’s enjoying tons of treats up there.

This mural was made possible thanks to a generous donation from Dr. Jim Bader. Thanks so much!!!

Hopefully there will soon be more dog (or cat)-faced art up at the shelter!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Three is Not a Crowd

The bell rings harshly throughout the corridor but is ignored by all and quickly fades out. A new attempt. No reaction except for an old man who holds on to the bars of the gate while mumbling something incomprehensible and pointing with his chin to the world outside. Two ladies shuffle past, tightly hanging on to each other while strolling for hours around the small centre garden. Usually clockwise, but once, just once, I saw them going the other way around.
Birds play with the straw gathered around the crib of Jesus in a forgotten Nativity scene in the garden. Nurses hurry past long lines of elderly sitting on couches or in wheelchairs along the corridors around the patio. I hate to ring the bell again and disturb this harmony, but why beat myself up, no one is bothered by it anyway.
So I ring again and this time I hear hurried footsteps. One of the orderlies comes in sight, balancing a cup of coffee in one hand, a huge keychain in the other. He opens up for me and my assistant, and the work can begin.
Well almost. First we walk by the long row of elderly in the corridor.  For some we’re no more than shadows passing. Others greet us, happy with any distraction, even if it is just a person not wearing a white uniform. Others recognize us from previous days, a smile of recognition appearing on their faces. With those we chat a little before moving on to the next. 

We walk through the dark corridor that leads to the dining hall. The space is dark and low, almost like a tunnel. I’m reminded of the Sculpture Museum in Copán Ruinas where a tunnel through the Maya Underworld leads up to a magnificent view of Temple Rosalila. Here in the nursing home, the end of the tunnel is covered with a blanket that muffles the kitchen sounds coming from beyond. And then, when you push the blanket aside, there is, well, not a Maya temple, but a mural that; I’m proud to see, livens up the place. Don Santiago and Doña Juanita against the church of San Andrés Xetul.
To the left there is another mural, this one of Doña Trini against a backdrop of one of Guatemala’s famous giant kites. 

But there’s one more wall that’s calling out for a mural… The design is ready, all that’s needed are some donations towards materials…  Nine more donations of $25 (Q185) each and we're there. Shall we make this happen together?