On Wednesday April 8th, Outlaw Arts Space unleashes “Connect The Dotties,” a show of new work by artist Steve Yensel. Works on display include paintings, photographs, and illustrations, in styles veering from realism to cartoon abstraction, but one thing links them all: each work depicts the artist’s dog, a Jack Russell terrier named Dottie (Instagram: @DottieDaDawg). Dogs are welcome to attend.
“Dottie da Dawg” – so named because of the single spot on her right side – has performed loyal service as the artist’s fetching muse for the past decade and a half. She turns 15 on April 11th – and to celebrate this milestone birthday, Yensel has curated a show of 45 Dottie-themed artworks.
Most painters are renowned for a single style signature, but Yensel doesn’t have one–he has an arsenal. Exhibiting mastery of numerous genres, he tackles each one with the playful, un-self-conscious spirit of a dog enjoying a romp in the park. “Connect The Dotties” reveals a surge of uninhibited creativity that could only be fostered by the adoring, supportive, non-critical presence of man’s best friend.
See Dottie portrayed in a range of styles, from classical representation (“End of the Dinosaur,” oil on canvas) to contemporary cartoon art (“Je Suis Dottie,” referencing the iconic Charlie Hebdo magazine). Here, Dottie is re-incarnated as Paul Cadmus’s “Seven Deadly Sins”; there, she’s a kissing cousin of Jeff Koons’s “Balloon Dog,” an homage to Yensel’s employer (his day job is Art Assistant at Koons’s studio). Here she has big eyes à la Margaret Keane; there, her big ears recall the cartoon artistry of Chuck Jones. Dottie also appears alongside history-making dog lovers such as Charlie Chaplin and Richard E. Byrd.
In “Art for Dog’s Sake” (acrylic on canvas), she’s depicted as the MGM lion in full roar, with the motto “Dottie da Dawg.” The original MGM motto, ARS GRATIA ARTIS – Art for Art’s Sake – was a nineteenth-century slogan that bohemians quoted to discredit the notion that art must serve some moral or didactic purpose. Re-affirming that revolutionary bohemian creed, the Dottie paintings prove – once again – that art needs no justification whatsoever. Why shouldn’t an artist take a cue from his four-footed friend and just have fun making art, as a dog would while chasing a ball?
Maybe “going to the dogs” is exactly what the art world needs now. That slyly subversive concept is the core message of this must-see exhibition. Come slurp wine with Dottie da Dawg at Wednesday’s opening. On Saturday, day two of the 3-day show, connect with Dottie by celebrating with the artist’s muse at a party feting her fifteenth. Dottie da Dawg will be in attendance all three days of the show.