Arts & Culture

Art Show at the Dog Show: Canines’ connection with humans on display

“Ich Bin Ein Berliner” by Christine Collier-Trevino of Manhattan, Kan.
“Ich Bin Ein Berliner” by Christine Collier-Trevino of Manhattan, Kan. Courtesy photo

A corral of canine art has arrived downtown.

A large collection of works from national and international artists are on display at CityArts and the Century II Concert Hall for the 28th Annual Art Show at the Dog Show. For artists like Christine Collier-Trevino, it’s an occasion to explore the depth of connection between people and their favorite pets while also honing creative pursuits.

“Canine art is challenging, and that is what speaks to me,” she said. “The immense variety in head shapes and body types make dogs very difficult to render. Add to that all of the criteria necessary for good art, and a very complex problem has been presented to the artist.”

It’s a conundrum the Manhattan, Kan., artist appears to have worked through. Two of her entries were accepted into the juried show this year, with her “Ich Bin Ein Berliner” piece winning best entry by a Kansas-based artist.

Pieces that convey strong emotion without too much sentimentality, she contends, reach wider audiences.

“ ‘Ich Bin Ein Berliner’ is an oil pastel that depicts a dog looking directly into the viewer’s eyes with a yearning to be free from confinement,” she said. “ ‘Sundowners’ is a drawing of an old pug sitting in the fading sunlight. As the title suggests, she is nearing the end of her life.”

Relatable instances like these are what organizers say make the show so popular. “There is a definite bond between people and their pets. That shows in the artwork itself,” said Angela Cato, marketing director for the city of Wichita’s Arts and Cultural Services division. “When people come to the show, they love trying to find their own breed in the work. It’s a feel-good exhibit.”

This is the only art show dedicated to the canine artist, said show chair Pat Deshler.

“We get people who submit from all over the world, too. This year, we have work from across the U.S. and from faraway places like France, British Columbia and the United Kingdom,” Deshler said. “We started doing the Art Show at the Dog Show 28 years ago because we wanted a competition for someone who does this sort of art to compete. A few others have popped up over the years, but we are the only one who has survived.”

Deshler said that 115 artists submitted 328 individual works. A jury selected over 180 of them to be displayed. The artworks cover a wide range of mediums, with prize categories awarded for oil and acrylic paintings, watercolor paintings, sculpture, drawing, photography, pastels, prints and other media. Prizes are also awarded for works depicting specific breeds. Carrying on a tradition started at its inception, the best in show winner has his or her work included in the permanent collection at the Museum of the Dog in St. Louis, Mo.

The art show is a full-circle experience for this year’s best in show prize winner, Charles Harpt of Tryon, N.C. A World War II veteran, he was stationed at Fort Riley during his time in the service. This is the third time he’s been awarded the distinction.

Deshler said that although Harpt loved being in Kansas, he had not had the chance to return until about 10 years ago when he won the best in show prize for the second time. This year, he won for his watercolor “Dressed for the Occasion,” which depicts a content, collared hound.

Myriad colors, styles and emotions give personality to each dog depicted in the show. Chris Duke (New Hartford, Conn.) depicts an off-blond terrier whose eyes beg for affection in “Cairn Terrier.” A fluffy white dog licks an affable older woman, showcasing the distinct bond between human and animal, in “The Feeling’s Mutual” by Thurmont, Md., painter Emily Sloviko.

Karla Smith of Boca Raton, Fla., uses rich, contrasting colors to depict a game of fetch in “Let’s Play,” as an auburn dog channels through a vibrant field of grass. A playful pup chases the camera in a beachfront photograph entitled “Puppy” by Verena Minesso of Sanguinet, France. The bulk of the works are at CityArts, with around 40 hanging at Century II.

“It’s a signature event for Wichita,” Cato said of the exhibit. “This is a show that has prestige on a very professional level, but you can really enjoy it on a fun level, too. It’s easy to immediately connect with the subject matter.”