PAL JOEY, ART CRITIC

Posted by Jack on May 12th, 2009 filed in About Ann

Drawing LessonIn the summer of 2006, when Ann had newly arrived on San Juan Island and was beginning to explore some of the island’s many pleasures and places, she decided on an afternoon stroll at the amazing sculpture park near Roche Harbor.  This park is a wonderland in a natural amphitheater surrounded by towering fir and cedar trees.  A nicely-tended trail meanders through nineteen acres of rustic meadows with natural shrubs, ponds, wildflowers and grasses, leading to thoughtfully placed works of three-dimensional art that are cleverly incorporated into this natural landscape.  Over 100 statues are on display.  If you like the idea of fine art placed in woodsy countryside with abundant birdsong, this is your bon-bon.

On that sunny June day when Ann went exploring the sculpture park, she took her pal Joey with her.  As you will note from the photographs, Joey is a handsome tricolor Pembroke Welsh Corgi.  He was then four years old, an age of reasonable maturity for a working breed.  Those who are familiar with the character of corgis understand they tend to have strong, fixed and non-negotiable opinions about matters of even minor consequence.  They expect you will understand that they have been given the right to make all the decisions.  These are doggie neocons.   Joey has an unfortunate way of explaining all this to newly-acquainted dogs with barks, snarls and baring of teeth until he has established his rank as top dog, as it were.  He attempted once to explain these simple facts of life to a Rottweiler at the Monterey waterfront.  This was not a successful effort on his part, certainly not a demonstration of good judgment.

The great pleasures of Joey’s existence are (1) bits of foodstuff accidentally dropped on the kitchen floor, (2) a rousing ball-game and (3) a walk through meadows and woods.  His stroll through the sculpture park on that day in June fit into these preferences very well, thank you.  Until, that is, the path took a winding turn up a hill to the left and revealed a tall, imperial sculpture of light gray granite, a creation clearly intended to make a dominant statement  and to make the viewer reflect upon the vanities of life.  This is not a piece to bring cerebral peace and comfort as one meditates in a quiet garden by a dappled pond, but a profound work to be placed boldly upon a high craig, a rocky bluff, a windswept tor, or perhaps nestled into a veiled and misty moor.  Joey had casually viewed all the other art pieces he had passed that day with polite attention much as the lord of the manor might inspect a showing of still life paintings from the ladies’ watercolor club at the local parish hall. This gray granite piece was a different matter.  At his very first first glance, Joey gave voice to a deep growl.  As he approached for a closer inspection, his growl turned to a steady bark. Not the  exuberant “Hey, there’s a fox!” bark, nor the happy bark to announce someone at the front door.  This was a serious, deep-throated voice of contempt, clearly directed at the statue upon which his eyes stayed locked.  It was the bay of critical pronouncement, exclaiming emphatic disapproval.  It continued until the offending member was out of sight.  Just to be sure, Ann circled around by way of another path and approached the offending work from the east.  Again Joey made his critique evident.  While the statue was in sight, he howled and roared; once out of sight, he was back to his usual diligent exploration of the scent of mouse/rabbit/fox/deer.  Clearly, it was the statue that offended his senses.

Joey, of course, lives with fine art.  He goes to her studio with Ann each morning where he watches her paint, guards the door or naps in the sun.  He regularly attends the weekly workshops in Ann’s studio though in these salons he politely avoids any vocal outbursts about the quality of the painting. While he may not always approve of the drawings or color choices, he keeps his yap shut.  Perhaps he recognizes that these efforts are learning exercises, not final expressions of the artists’ capabilities.  Or, perhaps, he remembers that when lunch is served, there is always the chance of that scrap of cheddar, sardine or cookie that may drop to the floor of the studio, immediately to become Joey food.  Not to imply that his critical valuations can be bought, but a cookie is a cookie.  Beauty, after all,  is in the eye, or pethaps the nose, of the beholder.

Joey

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