The animals that share our homes and lives offer us companionship, comfort and affection. They’re also endlessly entertaining and pretty darn adorable. Art at the CAVE has unleashed this love of companion animals with its current exhibit, “Pet Project,” on display through Oct. 30 at its downtown Vancouver gallery.
Preparations for the show began in September with an open call to artists in the community, both amateur and professional; 26 artists answered the call, submitting 40 pet portraits.
The works accomplish more than merely immortalizing a beloved pet’s image, however. The exhibit is a partnership with and a fundraiser for the Humane Society for Southwest Washington. Pet Project artists keep 50 percent of the revenue from artworks sold. Instead of retaining the remaining 50 percent, as would normally be the case, the gallery will donate that money to the Humane Society. Artists were further encouraged to visit the Humane Society to paint portraits of adoptable dogs and cats.
“Of course, a lot of people just did their own pets or their friends’ pets that they knew came from the shelter at an earlier date,” gallery curator Sharon Svec said. “A third or a quarter of the pieces are not for sale because people are so attached to them. But I did the math and, altogether, if in the ideal world every piece sold, we could raise $10,900 for the Humane Society.”
Every year, Art at the CAVE owner Anne John donates one of her original paintings to the Humane Society’s fundraising auction. While the Humane Society receives the money for the auctioned painting, John typically receives a rush of interest in her art after the auction has concluded.
“It’s been great for both of them,” Svec said, “but Anne thought, ‘Let’s take this a step further and use our space as a way to celebrate companion animals and create more fundraising for the Humane Society.’”
The image the gallery is using to promote the show is John’s painting, “Adopted,” depicting a passel of dogs and cats, as well as five parrots, a chicken and a guinea pig. John created the painting in 2010 when she visited the Humane Society. All the animals in the painting were in the shelter at that time. (In a happy coincidence, the painting, which was purchased in 2010 from the now-closed North Bank Gallery, was recently returned to John because the painting’s owners were downsizing.)
The artworks in the Pet Project exhibit mostly depict dogs, but there are many cats and “a couple bunny rabbits in there, too,” Svec said. Animals appear in a range of styles from Jason Litt’s surrealistic landscapes to Denise Clark Weston’s playful reinvention of famous self-portraits. The most expensive piece is John’s “Adopted” painting at $2,000 and the least expensive at $50 is Barbara McVey’s “I’m In Charge,” depicting a “sassy little black cat,” Svec said.
She also said the gallery recognizes that sometimes visitors fall in love with paintings that, for various reasons, can’t go home with them.
“Not everybody necessarily has space for art or maybe they can’t give as much as a piece is available for,” Svec said, “and that’s why we’re grateful for Parmalee Cover. She donated prints of her work, which can be purchased at a price of your choosing.”
If you’d like to see the show, the gallery is open for masked visitors from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. However, 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday might be the best time to gander at these pet portraits.
“We’ll have representatives from the Humane Society there who will be able to answer adoption questions and enlighten the public about what they do and what services they offer,” Svec said. “It will be a reception for the artists as well, so you can meet the artists and just celebrate the joy of companion animals.”