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It’s a Zoo Out There

Sacramento Fine Arts Center Hosts Animal Show

By Susan Maxwell Skinner
Posted: 2/6/2015

Kendra Dantes, Maliheh Bartolomeo, Vicki Behringer, and Sue Owens Wright with Their Canine Subjects
Mommies’ muses: Pets will star in the February/March “Animal House” exhibition at the Sacramento Fine Arts Center. Artists shown (left to right) are Kendra Dantes with Yorkie Spritzer, Maliheh Bartolomeo and Chihuahua Rum-Rum, Vicki Behringer with poodle Sparkle, and Sue Owens Wright with bassets Beau and Peaches.
Photo by Susan Maxwell Skinner

CARMICHAEL, CA (MPG) - If a dog is man’s best friend, he might also be an artist’s best model.

Dogs large and small—together with giraffes, birds, insects, and even a sax-playing cat—are celebrated at the Sacramento Fine Arts Center’s (SFAC) most popular annual exhibition. The Animal House show opens at the center on February 17th and runs until March 9th.

Animal art has been around since cavemen first finger painted. Canine deities inspired hieroglyphics in Egypt. Leonardo sketched dogs as eagerly as he dissected them. Britain’s King Charles II commissioned Lely masterpieces to glorify his spaniels. Landseer immortalized Queen Victoria’s pups. Picasso, Warhol, and Hockney doodled dachshunds with enthusiasm.

So what is it about pooches and painters? “It’s instinctive for artists to have friends pose for them,” said SFAC spokesman David Peterson. “This creates a record of important people in their life. Pets are part of that. Many artists take their dogs out painting. They’re never critical of your technique.”

Artists agree that animal portraits are no easier to execute than human likenesses. Because dog models are disinclined to be still (unless snoring), some painters work from photos. Peterson prefers to paint in full pooch. “It doesn’t matter if he wanders off,” said the watercolorist. “If you love your dog, your emotion allows his likeness to come through.”

Artists so revere their pets that the regional Animal House show is among the art center’s most popular events. “It attracts around 400 entries, from which we select 125 for exhibition,” said Peterson. “Visitor attendance is great, too. Senior homes send busloads; we also have school tours. Animal art seems to appeal emotionally to all ages. We started this show nine years ago. Since then, galleries as far away as Santa Cruz have copied the idea.”

Animal House includes junior entrants. A young artist will receive the same first prize cash award as the adult victor. All exhibits are for sale and prices range from $25 to $5,000. “Many of our youth entries sell,” said Peterson. “Family members often buy them. Whatever your age, selling a painting is a thrill.”

The high point of the exhibition is Second Saturday (March 11th), when visitors meet Audubon Society and SPCA sponsors. Along with the art on display, pets are also on exhibit; SPCA rescue dogs wander salons freely during reception hours. “They’re real sweethearts; everybody makes a fuss of them,” said Peterson.

“You can also see our artists painting the dogs. It’s also an opportunity to adopt. With live music, refreshment, and animals, it’s the most exciting night of our year—a three-ring circus.”

Admission to the Animal House show and Second Saturday reception is free. The SFAC gallery is located at 5330B Gibbons Drive in Carmichael. To learn more about this event, visit

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