Today we’re sharing a Q&A with Savannah painter Lisa Rosenmeier, whose project 365 Days: The Story of Two Kennels, opens Friday, October 6 at the Savannah Cultural Arts Gallery. Lisa shared a behind-the-scenes look at her project, in which she visited two kennels at an animal shelter for a year, documenting the animals that passed through each during that time, with us. Read on to learn more about the work and see it in person through November 3 at the Cultural Arts Gallery.
How were you initially inspired to embark upon this project?
Helping a couple of different people to re-home an animal that they adopted animal from a shelter. They just went by what looked cute and didn’t take into consideration the animals personality and behavior. They were also unprepared for what it would take to become a pet owner. That’s what got me thinking about how to show to people that animals (cats and dogs) are more that just something you get on a whim. That they have their own way of thinking, to show their individuality.
What was your process like? How did you choose which animals to do portraits of?
As for process, I went to the shelter everyday to see who was there. I kept both a calendar and journal log, this way I could keep track of how long they were in the space, any personal info about the animal and side notes of how the animal changed. Some became calmer, others just wanted out.
What materials did you work with and what is the scale of the work?
The scale of the individual paintings depended on how long the animal was in the predetermined kennel space. So the portraits range in size from 5×5 to 28×28. There are just over 90 paintings in total, covering over 97 animals. Some animals were in the space at the same time. Shared the space, shared the portrait.
Visiting and working in an animal shelter everyday for a year must have presented unique challenges. Would you describe some of the more difficult aspects of the project?
The first one that comes to mind was a military solder who was be station in another state that would not allow him to take the family dog, of four years, with them. The dog was 1/4 pit and that breed was on a state band list. I was hard to see such a strong and devoted man break down and cry when having to say good bye forever to a dog he truly loved. Another is from the animal’s perspective. Having to take puppies or kittens away from their mothers and placing them in another kennel spot because they were now old enough to be adopted out. Sometimes you would hear the babies and mother cry out for each other. That made me feel awful, I wouldn’t want anyone to take my child away from me.
Then there are the animals that are beaten, abandoned and some just neglected. Out of those, most don’t make it to the adoption floor. They have just been to abused and are mentally unsound, those make you mad. The shelter I was at, most of the animals were coming from owners who, for one reason or another, could no longer have their once-pet.
Even with the challenges the project presented, the paintings are essentially hopeful. What were some of the most rewarding aspects you found?
I also like seeing when two people wanted the same animal. There was always so much hope and love in that moment. Instead of the animal going pick me, pick me. It was the people asking that question to the animal, Am I the one?
What can viewers expect at your show? How many pieces are included and how will they be presented?
Hopefully they walk away with thinking about the animals we bring into our home a little differently and start to see them as the individuals they truly are.