Artist Dorothea Tanning once said, “Art has always been the raft onto which we climb to save our sanity…”
I boarded that raft after losing my younger sister, my Mom, and then my sweet, tiny Yorkshire Terrier, Mona Lisa, hugging her tightly as she was being euthanized.
My life has been inextricably linked to art. I achieve no higher level of tranquility than when art is my companion.
As a child, I loved to color and draw; as an adolescent/student, I expanded my knowledge of art through museum visits and art literature; as a teacher, I then used art which transcends linguistic barriers, to assist my non-English speaking students how to communicate. Art continues to enrich my life, now in retirement, as a Docent at the Columbus Museum of Art (CMA).
Therapy for me throughout the summer and fall months of 2018 came in the form of doing art. All of my art was of dogs: dog portraits, dogs with homeless persons, dogs playing, and, then, my Sheepdog Series. To ensure that the dog art that I was doing was therapeutic and not a trigger to the immense grief that I was experiencing, I chose to incorporate into my art a dog breed totally different from the tiny Yorkie breed of my Mona Lisa–I chose the sheepdog.
I started incorporating my Sheepdog into universally recognizable art: Andrew Wyeth’s Cristina’s World, Vincent Van Gogh’s Bedroom at Arles, Edvard Munch’s The Scream, Edouard Manet’s Boating. I added beloved works from CMA’s collection: Edward Hopper’s Morning Sun, Emile Nolde’s Sunflowers in the Windstorm, George Tooker’s Lunch.
Eventually my feelings of grief and loss were gentled through the process of doing the dog art and Sheepdog Series in the tranquility of my small home studio.
As anticipatory grief and sadness engulfs us in the form of quarantine and the devastating and humbling results of the Covid-19 virus on mankind this 2020, I started posting on-line my Sheepdog series images for my beloved Docent community group as a way of perhaps bringing a smile to their art-embracing lives. The unsolicited positive responses and warm reactions to my series validated my efforts and motivated me to continue.
I have consequently incorporated Sheepdog further into my art inspired by CMA owned Philip Guston’s Coat, George Tooker’s Mirror, Paul Klee’s Thoughtful, George Bellows’s Man and Dog, and Chien-Chi Chang’s The Chain.
Mona Lisa and the Sheepdog Series have brought me endless time for reflection and the added happiness of knowing that my friends are smiling. My hope is that climbing onto that “Art Raft” brings peace to all.
Joy Ritchie is one of 120 CMA Docents whose mission and joy is to engage museum visitors in meaningful conversation and to encourage visitors to make personal connections with the art of CMA.