Naturestage is all about using the arts to foster a sense of kinship with other species, but sometimes it feels very satisfying to make a real difference that is tangible and as practical as a cat leaving a cage after months at a shelter and finding a home where he or she is cherished.
That is what we’re aiming for this holiday season, as I use my photographic skills to help make some of the cats needing homes stand out on Petfinder. Your donations help me afford to do more photography like this of animals in shelters, as well as the pursue the other Naturestage projects.
Here are some of the cats I photographed on Monday at the MSPCA Nevins Farm in Methuen, MA and their stories. You can request copies of the postcards of each cat to include inside your holiday cards this season. Samples of the cards are at the end of the post. Help spread the word by sharing this blog and ordering some postcards to enclose that will draw people to the naturestage website to see more animals needing homes and learn about our various large-scale projects like the One Language Project, The Elephant Project and Park Dreams.
Huge thanks to Peter Sward and Jackie Goreham for “cat wrangling” and the descriptions of the cat histories, and to Lensprotogo in Concord for lending lighting equipment, as well as to Susan Hughes of the Greening Touch for lending the orchids and other plants for the session.
Einstein is a gray and white male. He’s living in the staff offices because he doesn’t like cats. He must be the only king in the castle. He’s full of zest and would love to have a real home. He was very scared during the photoshoot as you can probably tell by his eyes.
Salem is a long-haired tabby. Her previous family had no time for her and her two friends. They were both adopted. She is a very smart and curious cat, but a bit wary until she warms up. She loves affection – being petted and brushed. She is very terrified in the shelter and wanted to hide in this apple basket. Please help her feel loved and safe!
Daquiri is a tortoise shell female. She is 3 years old and very talkative. Her ‘Dad’ in her family died and her Mom was allergic so she brought her to MSPCANevins. She has so much love to offer!
Rafiki is a playful and sweet gray cat. He was adopted but returned when the cat in the house was bullying him. He really likes other cats and you can read more about him here: http://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/23296271
Tater Tot is a beautiful black cat. She was a stray hanging around someone’s yard for a while and is declawed, so this was a very risky life she was living outdoors with no way to protect herself from raccoons, coyotes, and dogs. Without her claws, she especially loves being scratched and petted and is a big fan of head butts.
Sebago is a loving black and white cat who came from another shelter. He is mellow and the caretakers at the MSPCA at Nevins are worried he’s depressed. He tolerates other cats as well as kids. Please give him his forever home! http://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/24572962
Hidz was a stray who hid in someone’s garage for Hurricane Sandy. While in there, she was polite enough to use a litter box. Total lapcat. She is actually sick right now with an upper respiratory infection which is common when cats come into the shelter.
Happy is a black male with a little white on his paws. He came in with his lifelong companion, Chloe, but they weren’t adopted together and he did not get along with the cat in the new family, so they returned him. He probably misses Chloe a lot, but we can see he loves to play. Give him a second chance! http://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/23844606
Lupina is a tiny white tabby: She’s about 3 pounds and looks like a kitten but she’s about four years old. She has a heart murmur and they are hoping to get enough donations on her behalf to get her an echocardiogram so we can determine the severity of the problem. She came in with a friend who was adopted. Just as with us, it can be hard on other animals when their companions leave them for whatever reason. Come soon and give this beautiful little spirit a good home! http://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/24588446
Almond Joy has Feline Leukemia FeLV. He was abandoned in an apartment and has been waiting such a long time to find a home. He likes dogs. More info here http://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/24520680
Sally: Tiger, FeLV cat. Feisty and fun. More info here. What a beautiful cat she is! http://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/24243763
The Muffin Man is a Long Haired Ginger cat. He is only one year old, but looks so much older, probably because he has contracted Feline Leukemia Virus from another cat. He is so mellow and sweet, and an absolute purr machine. When I photographed him on Monday, he was getting over a case of the sniffles.
A sample card (there are twelve made for each of the above cats) which you can include in your holiday mailings this season to help raise money for Naturestage projects and make more photoshoots of animals needing adoption possible. They also bring awareness to the wonderful work of the MSPCA. We are about to launch a store on the Naturestage site. If you would like to order cards, they are $50 for 25 and they are 4 x 5.5 inches so that they fit inside a 5×7 envelope and folded card. To order your cards, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me how many you would like for your holiday mailings or just to share with people you know.
We have rescheduled the benefit for Naturestage. Please invite friends to join you for a delicious dinner for $35 (half the proceeds go back to Naturestage) at The Elephant Walk in Waltham. Cocktails and appetizers from 6:30-7:00. Dinner 7:00-8:00, Brief Talk with Dessert and a Video Presentation of Our Work. To reserve your spot, click here!
I opened the New York Times today and discovered a video on Zoos in America. Last week’s Times featured a front page article on the commonalities between human animal diseases and non human animal diseases. Apparently, other species suffer from many of the same psychological and physical diseases as we do and veterinarians are being asked to chime in on human conditions with their solutions. PBS just broadcast two powerful documentaries on the connection we have with dogs and cats (Shelter Me and Why We Love Dogs and Cats.)
I am so heartened by the growing interest in what we share in common with other species. There is a long way to go but social change takes time.
I am so happy to see the mainstream media start to venture into what in past years would have seemed the dangerous zone of anthropomorphizing. I keep envisioning it becoming more profound – nightly newscasters showing animals needing adoption, or weather forecasters mentioning that people should slow down on the roads because of salamander migrations and animals coming out of hibernation or babies being born who don’t know about cars…or of the devastation on our psyche, on the environment, on the unlucky animals in factory farms which wouldn’t exist without our tax subsidies and being far away from most of our viewing. (Factory farms have just lobbied to make it illegal for photographers or videographers to enter their facilities). With every day, I hope to bring this into focus through whatever means I have as an artist.
The One Language Project – The photographs I am taking and the accompanying essays by the owners, will be expanding for use in an App for the ipad and for viewing on the website with hyperlinks and infographics. Check out the page and consider commissioning a portrait of your dog to be used in the installations or donating to the project. This public art project is a powerful way to put other species in front of us and show our interconnections across species divides through the one language of emotion we all share.
The questions I’m including in the next installation June 22nd of One Language: For the Love of Dogs:
“What would we do differently if we referred to all other individuals in other species as a someone instead of a something? Should we be drawing lines or should we instead by drawing circles?”
Next year, maybe cows, or cats, or ferrets or parrots or pigs? Our longing for connection with other species is that longing we have for touch, voice, relationship, belonging. Maybe it is as close as your yard, your rooftop, your living room. There is someone who needs you to listen – whether the cardinal at your window, the dog at your side, the elephants fighting for survival, or your neighbor next door, hidden from view in loneliness and struggle. We are all animals with similar needs and great capacity for bringing joy.
One Language: For the Love of Dogs – is phase one of an expanding and ongoing exploration of the one language we share with with other species and one another – emotion.
I am absolutely thrilled to combine my love for photography, video and audio storytelling with the mission of Naturestage in this project which encapsulates much of my most recent work and which I think has the power to engage people in conversations about our role alongside the other species on the planet.
Here are photos from today’s new installation in the Dakota Puffin Dog Boutique on Charles Street in Boston. Many thanks to Nicole, the owner, for giving us wall space for the exhibit, and to the owners of the dogs who wrote heart-felt short essays and allowed me to photograph their wonderful dogs. It brings me so much joy to discover the stories of these animals through the eyes and hearts of their owners, and to involve more and more people and their pets in this project. We hope the idea will attract backers for parts of this project which will help bring the exhibit to different spaces and cover the cost of taking the photos and reproducing them on the canvases.
Here is where you come in. If you have a dog or know someone who has a story to share about their dog, please consider becoming part of this exhibition as it reproduces for the walls of office buildings, dental offices, restaurants, galleries, libraries, hospitals and schools. I will take photos of your dog on location and then work with you to write a short paragraph or two about how your dog has changed your life. One goal of the project is to bring the connection we share with other animals into mainstream conversation and shed light on our conflicting treatment of animals in society and how to build empathy, understanding and respect for those beings which rely on us to take their interests to heart. One Language – For the Love of Dogs, opened today!
Click the link above to see some of the parks we hope to visit for the Park Dreams podcasts and stories…
A discussion in Prospect Park, Brooklyn with painter Gary Dunn about art, urban parks and the value of building a craft.
One of my friends has truly the most extraordinary collection of books of anyone I know, and I confess, I’ve photographed her books (with her permission). I thought maybe you’d be interested in some of the books lining my shelves, covering topics from fundraising in the arts, to empathy and compassion, economics, essays by naturalists, poetic writings on nature and animals, etc.