Praise for My Dog Speaks, Curated by Hiro Sakaguchi

Selected as a "Hot Curatorial Pick" by The Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania.

"Peering Into the Darker Side of the Animal World" in The Philadelphia Inquirer
Edith Newhall

After a long-running scholarly exhibitions of Harry Bertoia drawings that was beginning to look like a permanent installation, Seraphin Gallery has sprung back into action with what you initially might assume to be of those lighthearted summer crowd-pleasers. But “My Dog Speaks: Animal Narrative in Contemporary Art,” a group sow organized by painter Hiro Sakaguchi and featuring works by 13 artists in which animals take center stage, in generally more poignant, puzzling and dark than cute.

Sarah McEneaney, who often has portrayed her own animal companions in her paintings, set the show’s slightly unsettling tone with her large tempera painting, Dog Heaven (2008) – ostensibly of a lush green city dog park overrun with playful canines of all sorts, but in fact a group portrait of formerly living dogs the artists knew – and also with Peggy (2005), a small gouache of a dog seeking shade under a palm tree.

Though Bonnie Brenda Scott’s mural is about the first piece you’ll see on entering the gallery – and y ou can’t miss her sprawling pink-and-orange painting of what appear to be wolves and human figures made of intestines –her small mixed-media pieces, Trouble at the Hen House and Trouble at the Hen House II (both 2009), drawn and painted on actual hunters’ target sheets for coyotes, seem to emblemize human anger at animal transgressors.

Darla Jackson’s two sculptures, All the Times... (2007) and Cheap (Delusions of Grandeur Series) (2005), cast a frankly somber mood.

The former, a likeness of a sleeping or dead fawn whose skin is etched with crossed-out numerals, and the latter, a cast of a dead baby bird atop a rectangular bronze slab, warns of the consequences of environmental negligence. Nancy Sophy and Eric McDade also conjure the fragility of nature in their solemn, although very different, images of birds.

John Karpinski, Anne Canfield, Sherif Habashi, Caroline Picard, and collaborators Alina Josan and Amanda Miller create more obvious narratives in their drawings and paintings than any of the other artists in this show, and they also are more inclined to far-fetched whimsy. Their “stories” are like fairy tales gone askew or awry.

Laura McKinley’s riff on early American portraiture, Shilly-Shally (2008), has no narrative whatsoever, but her black-and-white kittens are mesmerizing.


"Animal Collective: Seraphin Gallery Takes a Walk on the Wild Side"
in Philadelphia Weekly.

Through the years, artists have devoted gallons of paint and tons of plaster, clay and metal to the depiction of animals. “My Dog Speaks” at Seraphin Gallery is a mixed-media exhibit featuring work by 13 artists. Each piece was created using animals as the central figure. Through the work, the artists highlight the relationship between humans and wildlife—ranging from beloved pets to untamed beasts.

Darla Jackson’s small sculpture of a sleeping deer on a white pedestal feels as mythological as a unicorn, only far more vulnerable.

Bonnie Brenda Scott painted images of ghost animals, crystals, clouds and words like “PLEASE” and “TROUBLE” on hunters’ target practice sheets. Around the sheets, Scott painted a mural of writhing animals, and the effect is shamanistic—as if the artist were attempting to dispel evil spirits. The mural is a powerful work in a quiet show—weird for its colors (pink and orange) and for its evocation of smoke, viscera and tortured souls.

Sarah McEneaney’s pet portraits are on the other side of the spectrum. Dog Heaven imagines the best, greenest dog park ever for her beloved dead pets and those of her friends, all lovingly depicted while playing.

Likewise, Laura McKinley’s Shilly-Shally is a straightforward portrait of a serious young woman in a black-and-white striped shirt holding two nearly identical black and white cats. Perhaps a deadpan family portrait, the work is a contemporary update on early American portraits by Ammi Phillips, who loved to show children and animals in her work.

Alina Josan and Amanda Miller’s collaborative altar pieces are lovely and spiritual in their leanings. Caitlin Emma Perkins’ drawing of a singing mouse and Anne Canfield’s drawing of cats steering a gondola are both picture-book-perfect evocations of imaginary animal friends.

“My Dog Speaks” contains 26 original pieces and runs through June 9.



Seraphin Gallery  l  Contemporary Philadelphia Art Gallery and Art Consultant 
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