Peta Kaplan sits beside a painting from her ‘Dogs of Nicaragua’ series
When interviewing Peta she shared a common conversation she has had with sympathetic art and animal lovers attending openings in Chicago, that goes a bit like this:
Art Admirer: These paintings make me so sad.
AA: At least in the States we have animal shelters.
PK: Yes, but this is basically jail and they are separated from their pack mates.
AA: But many of them are starving
PK: Yes this is true, but here they roam freely running in packs like wolves.
In 2006, while living in Chicago, Peta Kaplan, her partner Ben Sandzer-Bell and their four sons came to Nicaragua for a vacation. They felt so comfortable here, they purchased a piece of property seeing the potential in a long term lifestyle change and a lifestyle investment. Six months after purchasing, they designed and built a new h0me and started making the trip to Nicaragua from Chicago more and more frequently. Granada is now their full time home, the base for their sustainable building business CO2Bambu, the source of inspiration for Peta’s 3 year project painting portraits of dogs, and the recipient of their many philanthropic ventures including the adoption of one street dog and seven content cats.
LL: How did the Dog’s of Nicaragua project come about?
PK: When we first came to Nicaragua, one of the things that really struck me and touched my heart was the street dogs. I started taking photographs and drawing them. To me, they are such unique dogs, they have so much character and personality. They were so captivating. Every time we came to Nicaragua I would take more pictures and I became very attached to some of them. I started painting them as a way to raise awareness. This became my work for three years.
LL: What is the name of the painting in the photograph shown above and when was it completed?
PK: The name of the painting is ‘Scratching dog’ and was completed in 2009.
LL: Are all of the paintings of dogs in Granada or other areas as well?
PK: The dog paintings are of dogs all over Nicaragua. They were all painted in Chicago.
LL: Are the paintings roughly life size? What is the medium?
PK: They are all painted using OILS and are often life size. The canvas measures about 52”x58″.
LL: Do you have a background in painting?
PK: I have painted since I could hold a paintbrush in my hand and have studied at both the Evanston Art Center in Chicago and the Art Institute of Chicago.
LL: You mentioned The Dogs of Nicaragua project took place before you moved here permanently and now that you are here, you have a pack of dogs that have found you and visit you at your door for good eats. Do you recognize any of these dogs from your photographs/paintings?
PK: A few of the dogs that I painted I had ongoing relationships with, especially Teddy, who was featured in quite a few of my works. Currently there are many that come to my door that remind me of ones that I have painted but whether they are the exact dog in my paintings, I could not say for sure.
LL: Describe the character and personality of some of your favorite dogs of Nicaragua?
PK: Scarface is one of my current favorites. He is an extremely old dog, can barely make it to my door and has a very beat up and scarred face. When I first met him, he was walking with his face almost in the gutter and barely looked up at anything. He was defeated and “down and out”. I dont think anyone has touched him or spoken to him in years. He is extremely responsive and very gentle. He is definitely enjoying the attention and care, at the end of his rather hard life.
Princessa is the street dog that adopted us. She pushed her way into the house, and once in, refused to go out. When we tried to get her back out, she lay on her back, put her paws in the air and it was impossible to return her to the street. Now she comes and goes, but spends most of her time and her nights with us. She is extremely protective of us, her new family and when we walk in the street, she leads the way and clears the road by barking at everyone and everything that comes by.
LL: Do you sell more paintings here or in other locations?
PK: When people see them here they have a much bigger reaction because they can relate to them, “hey I know that dog I’ve seen that dog”. I have sold far more here because it becomes a memento from their trip.
LL: If someone would like to purchase a painting, how do they contact you, and will you ship anywhere?
PK: Anyone can email me directly and yes I will ship to them. The paintings are on canvas which rolls up and can be put into a tube and mailed.
To see more of the images from the Dogs of Nicaragua Series
Peta uses the profits from her painting sales to feed the daily group of street dogs convening at her front door as well as others in need she encounters. If you are interested in contacting Peta about purchasing a painting, she can be reached here: firstname.lastname@example.org