IT GIVES ONE PAWS
By JAMES GARDNER
May 6, 2002 -- FAR be it from me to make the obvious and entirely gratuitous
point that Tillie is not the first and surely will not be the last bitch
to get ahead in the highly competitive world of contemporary art. With
a resume most of the art world would kill for - 11 solo exhibitions in
two years -Tillie, a 3-year-old Jack Russell terrier whose name is short
for Tillamook Cheddar (an Oregon cheese she seems to like), now arrives
in the prestigious National Arts Home Club at Gramercy Park with attitude
to spare. Apparently, Tillie is prepared to do just about anything for
a slice of cheddar. Not only does she obey the most whimsical promptings
of her master/dealer, Bowman Hastie, a Brooklyn writer who organized her
show. She is even willing to team up with a dozen other artists as she
scratches and paws at the work they have laid out for her. Among them
is Tom Sachs, who recently received 15 nanoseconds of fame for his Prada
Death Camp piece at the Jewish Museum. It's nice to see him moving up
in the art world. Some of these works are almost entirely by Tillie, like
those in which Ryan MaGinness places a color transfer over a suede board
Horoscope and allows Tillie to have at it.The result, a frenzied maze
of red, white and blue scribblings, betrays the influence of Cy Twombley
in the '60s (his best Lifestyle period), and of four or five severely
psychotic outsider artists. Other works reveal Tillie to be a cunning
performance artist.NYC "I Love Tillie and Tillie Likes Me," in collaboration
with Andrew Kromelow, is a slyly post-modern appropriation of a famous
performance piece by Josef Beuys from the early '80s. In that earlier
work, the artist was beset by an angry dog. Here, it is the artist herself,
Tillie, who assails the human being. As a result of the National Arts
Club's exhibition, I confess that I have had to rethink two of my most
basic assumptions about art and life: first, the notion that animals cannot
have an aesthetic sense; second, the core conviction that no sentient
entity could possibly paint anything worse than what Julian Schnabel recently
showed at Sports the Gagosian Gallery. On both accounts, I stand corrected.
COLLABORATIONS At the National
15 Grammercy Park, (212) 475-3424.
PANT BY NUMBERS
Sunday, October 22,2000
ever visited a gallery or museum and thought, "Hey, my pet could do that,"
won't be surprised at the newest art trend: dogs and cats that paint.
Yesterday, at the 105 DeVoe
Gallery in the heavily artist-populated Williamsburg area of
Brooklyn, a Jack Russell terrier named Tillamook Cheddar hosted
an art opening, her second solo show.
On display were about 30
abstract images, which the canine artist achieves by scratching
and digging at color transfer paper. Her efforts leave red, yellow,
blue or black marks on a "canvas" that's actually a piece of white matboard
placed underneath the transfer paper.
Tillie, as she's known, is
named after a popular brand of Oregon cheddar, but the impressive
results of the 16-pound artist's efforts are anything but cheesy. Ranging
in price from $75 to $150, they've prompted comparisons to modern masters
Cy Twombly and Willem de Kooning.
Her next opening will be
in Manhattan in early December, at the lobby exhibition space at 176
"I don't guide her paws at
all," says Tillie's assistant (and owner), Bowman Hastie. "But I do
need to rein her in sometimes, to prevent her from destroying the work.
She digs so furiously, she's torn some corners off pieces in the process
of making them."
Hastie attributes Tillie's
creative diligence to the fact that she's a terrier, a type of dog
known for its tenacious digging ability. "Tillie is super-focused when
she works," Hastie says. "It's like she enters a trance."
Tillie frequently attends
gallery openings and is expert at networking. Her fans include such
hip young (and human) artists as the controversial Tom Sachs, whose
use of live bullets in his most recent show led to the arrest of his
art dealer, Mary Boone.
Sachs owns several Tillies,
as does artist Phil Frost, who met the canine art star when she
attended his recent opening at Chelsea's trendy Jack Shainman Gallery.
Tillie also has a Web site, www.tillamookcheddar.com.
Artistic expression isn't
limited to canines. "Why Cats Paint: A Theory of Feline Aesthetics"
(Ten Speed Press, $16.95) is a best-selling book whose authors, Heather
Busch and Burton Silver, claim that many cats enjoy expressing themselves
Its pages are filled with
photographic proof of creative felines using their paws to make bold,
abstract artworks reminiscent of the work of Jackson Pollock.
Dogs and cats aren't alone.
Animals of various species possess artistic talents just waiting to
The Russian-born artists
Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid, a.k.a. Komar and Melamid, are renowned
for their creative collaborations with animals, including dogs and beavers.
They believe that animals, when given a creative outlet, really do become
"In Moscow, we gave a Polaroid
camera to a chimpanzee," Komar explains. "When he looked at the photo
he took, he understood the connection between the picture and the reality.
He became an artist at that moment."
Next fall, HarperCollins
will publish the duo's "When Elephants Paint," with an introduction
by Dave Eggers. The book documents what happens when a paintbrush is
placed in a pachyderm's trunk.
"The elephant is the biggest
artist in the world." Komar says. "Bigger than Picasso!"
Works by Tillamook Cheddar
will stay up through Nov. 11 at 105 DeVoe, 105 DeVoe St., Brooklyn.
Gallery hours: Saturdays from 3 to 6 p.m.; call (718) 398-6956 for information