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artist samuelle richardson, usa: ghost dogs

The making of Ghost Dogs

I have been following multimedia artist Samuelle’s  ghost dogs construction take form over the past year.  When I saw one of the first steps in her process of the wire wrapped raw wood stick figures it looked to be some sort of mammal, I thought, canine variety?  Well, I just could not make the connection to what I recollect of Samuelle’s organic, floating human forms, “Earth Angels”, wrapped in colorful plaid and solid fabrics.  Turns out, this new collection follows a common genre of textile wrapped form.  Little by little, in a slow calculated process, I saw the metamorphic evolution.  There was a very angry component to this collection though.  One that I had not noticed before in her work.  The carved wooden lower jaws and the jagged angry teeth gave me a bit of a fright.  “Ghost Dogs”  as I was to learn was the title, was quite fitting.

Most of the dogs in the world do not have owners and the majority of those live in urban areas where they survive as scavengers.  They are known as Village Dogs, but I think of them as Ghost Dogs, living around us but rarely noticed.   Samuelle Richardson

The five Ghost Dogs are made of discarded material and they range in size from 19” x 20” x 12” to 25” x 25” x 17”.  Holes are drilled into tree branch legs and wrapped in 9 to 16 gauge metal wire.  The wire is what ultimately holds the form together.  Padding is the next step.  Samuelle, environmentally conscious in most all of her work, incorporates recycled scraps of foam rubber and textiles.  A layer of Tarlatan is wrapped over the padding, in order to tighten the form and prepare for the final stage of reworking vintage wool sweaters as the patch-worked fur layer.

 HAF:  It is very interesting Samuelle to see this work.  It seems to be a slight divergence from your previous works. Can you talk about the “anger” seen in ghost dogs?

Samuelle: You are very observant about the “angry” part.  It’s true that this series is a departure from recent work in the sense that I wanted to go to a darker place.  I felt that my previous work had been miscast as sunny and wholesome and that I had betrayed the grittier part of my world.  I now wanted “to speak” with an edgier vocabulary.   The angry teeth came from my research into African Art.  The Ghost Dog series was at first, influenced by the African Wild Dogs I had seen in their natural habitat in South Africa and I tried to imagine how an African artist might interpret a wild dog.   I knew then that if my dogs were to be edgy, they would need serious teeth.

HAF:  What was the process that informed you with this project?

Samuelle: Anatomy informs the work as I measure by eye and look for asymmetrical shapes.  I slow down the process, to allow for discovery and I rarely have a complete plan before I begin. I would add that all of my work is based on true anatomy even though my perspective gives it a subjective quality.  Many years ago I immersed myself in a process called écorché where a scale model of the skeleton is built by hand in clay.  I did it because I knew that going forward, I would make better decisions in my work with that depth of knowledge.  I always use reference material for my subjects because my goal is to get something down rather than make it up.  While making the dogs, I kept a bulletin board in front of me with pictures of dog skeletons and dogs in various stages of animation.

 HAF:  You recently displayed the dogs in their first public viewing.  How did the audience respond to the pack?  What’s next for the dogs?

Samuelle The response was very strong and people were curious to know how they were made.  I kept a folder of pictures on hand to show anyone who asked about the process.  The exhibit was in my studio at the Spring Brewery Art Walk 2017.  The installation included the dogs and dead tree branches hung from the ceiling.  Many agreed that the branches added an eerie kind of drama.  Genie Davis, a writer for Diversions LA, stopped by and included me in a piece she wrote about the Brewery Art Walk.

In the following week, a sixth grade class was invited to my studio for a brief tour and discussion about my process.  Their teacher was eager to remind them that science was crucial to my work as well as the ability to write about it.  (I got a kick out of that.)  Last week I received an acceptance to a juried show in LA at Groundspace Project, opening July 8th.  The juror is Betty Ann Brown. I am investigating more venues for Ghost Dogs before they are in the Peaceable Kingdom exhibit at MOAH Lancaster, CA in February 2019.  They will most likely be in a solo show at Gallery 825, West Hollywood in 2018.


samuelle richardson, usa
samuelle richardson, usa
samuelle richardson, usa
"ghost dogs" tree branches, wire, foam rubber, tarlatan, wool 19 x 20 x 12” to 25 x 25 x 17”
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