John Armstrong

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Do You Love Me?: Pet Sounds
Joanne Bristol, G.B. Jones, Shari Hatt, Tanya Mars, Garry-Lewis James Osterberg, Ian Phillips, Christina Zeidler
Curated by Kim Fullerton
Tom Thomson Art Gallery, Owen Sound, Ontario


Tanya Mars Vidoe Still from Hot

Tanya Mars
Hot (1998)
Video, 10 minutes, colour, sound


In Do You Love Me? curator Kim Fullerton lays bare the ever-so-human desire for affection and companionship by choosing work that scrutinizes our relationship to our pets, with a focus on woman’s best friend, the dog. The exhibition derives its title from Hot (1998), Tanya Mars’s video projection of the artist cuddling her dog Woofie. Shot with tightly framed close-ups, passages fade in and out in balletic slow-mo. In one instance, we see Mars’s scrunched-up face while she is being affectionately licked, the artist’s blond locks intermingling with Woofie’s black fur. All this is hauntingly editorialized by a woman’s voice that repeatedly and plaintively asks, “Do You Love Me?”  This paradox of anthropomorphism and celebration is a recurrent motif throughout the exhibition.


Image of G.B. Jones's drawing Jena von Brucker and Big Ethel

G.B. Jones
Jena von Brucker and Big Ethel (A Girl And Her Dog) (1999)
Pencil on paper


G.B. Jones’s soft-focus graphite drawings present intimiste portraits of pets and their owners, with only the most rudimentary indication of setting. In Jena von Brucker and Big Ethel (A Girl And Her Dog) (1999) we meet the gaze of a grim-faced von Bruker (a zine publisher Jones has worked with), who as butch dyke straddles a large, and rather benign, boxer that stares unconcernedly off in the distance. Is this dog-and-mistress dyad the meeting of two complementary forces or sexually charged theatre in the manner of Tom of Finland with the boxer as prop?

Christina Zeidler’s 16-mm film-to-video hymn to her deceased dog Mica, Traces (2001), is a searching portrayal of the bond between woman and animal. The confessional and emotionally charged voiceover, again the artist’s voice, ruminates: Mica was a guardian angel, a model citizen, who took being a dog “seriously” and deserved a measure of freedom outside of the his role as pet. In poetically titled short sections, the artist has shot city streets, grocery store aisles or the interior of a car stuck in traffic on an expressway — the interstices of everyday life that might evoke Mica. The shuttering of the tinted black-and-white film, in tandem with a wonderfully moody electric-guitar soundtrack by Zeidler’s band, ina und ina, create a air of heightened melancholy that interrogates mourning the loss of a pet with a measure of critical exaggeration.



Garry-Lewis James Osterberg
I'm Worth a Million in Prizes (2007-2010)
Single channel video (3 minutes, 13 seconds)


I'm Worth a Million in Prizes (2007-2010), a single-channel video and sculptural installation, is presented as being created by artist Shari Hatt’s chihuahua, Garry-Lewis James Osterberg. The artist-pet collaborative team’s work have produced a number of chewed-up stuffed animals and a delightfully silly and snappy altered music video that features rocker Iggy Pop performing his 1977 song Lust for Life along with the dog. Garry-Lewis bumps and grinds, chews toys, humps a stick and Pop does more or less the same thing. In her authorial ruse, Hatt points to the reciprocal nature of living with our furry friends: our pets also imprint on us.

Ian Phillips’s Lost (1991-2010), a long-term mail art project, is comprised of reproductions of lost-and-found pet posters from the world over. Apart from the predominant dogs and cats, we see a rabbit, rat, hawk, wolf, guinea pig — the list goes on. The anxious pet owners of all ages lavish great care in the description and illustration of their heartrending and at times humorous pleas. This work was collected in a book of the same title published in 2002 by Princeton Architectural Press, which in turn created a bit of media buzz in Japan resulting in talk show interviews and a wack o’ cutesy-pie lost-pet souvenir ephemera on view in a vitrine at the entrance of the exhibition.

These artists, or their surrogates, have based their work on careful observation or firsthand knowledge of the interactions of people and their pets:  it is wondrous indeed to get pets to do tricks but better still to watch ourselves as equal performers.


“Do You Love Me?: Pet Sounds.” Canadian Art Online: Review. 23 September 2010. <>.