"Alici" is part of the Cat Dreams series by artist Cristina Burns
When I first moved into our rental house in Luxembourg I thought that the walls should remain mostly bare. Although they are painted in various shades of pastel colors like blue, pink, and yellow, I wasn't inspired to fill them with family photos, famous landscapes, or framed degrees and certifications, as I have done in many dwellings before. Perhaps this decision was a reflection of my feelings of uncertainty that accompanied me like hand luggage on my cross continental journey. Or maybe it was partly due to the fact that I didn't want to be bothered with filling in holes and repainting whenever it came time to move. Nevertheless, over the years, the walls have remained bare while I found other ways to decorate and express my colorful and creative personality.
I have never studied art, and for most of my life avoided places like art museums, galleries, and shows. I thought for sure those places weren't for me, and much preferred to go shopping or pursue extreme sports, like shark cage diving, during my vacations. This particular mindset could have been due to my young age and lack of wisdom, but interestingly enough, nowadays, I find that my interest in and patience for art has changed and I'm excited to explore its multifaceted sides.
Last year my family and I took a trip to Paris during which we visited Claude Monet's Gardens which is just outside of Paris located in Giverney, France. It was a bucket list item for my stepmother, Marilyn, who is also a Master Gardner, and we were only accompanying her because it was the nice thing to do, not because we truly wanted to go.
Hindsight, I admit that I was truly unprepared for the beauty the garden's held. I had been to an arboretum in the past, which was what I had in mind, but that was nothing compared to the landscape that laid before me. At the end of the tour while cruising the gift shop, I decided to purchase one of Monet's paintings of the gardens, despite the fact that I had about a hundred photos on my smartphone. For the first time in my life, having the portrait and hanging it up at home felt like a way to preserve the memories as well as pay tribute to such a talented artist.
smartphone photo taken at Claude Monet's Gardens
Since that time my appreciation has continued to mature, and I've found a way to fuse my newly found passion for art with my undying passion for animals. My husband and I have recently started a web platform called Petopia,that provides vital information for having and maintaining healthy and happy pets to people in the Luxembourg region. One of the areas that we focus on is animal related art where we feature global artists in our Art Gallery who execute their art in many different forms.
When I first saw the portraits painted by Anastasia Vanden Berghe, I immediately thought of my former Alaskan Malamute, Sasha. Sasha was with me for 11 years before she was diagnosed with bone cancer and passed away in 2007. Ever since her death I promised myself that one day I would honor her by having her portrait painted. It's taken me 9 years of searching, but with Anastasia, I'd finally found an artist whom I felt that I could entrust this task to. With the exception of the size of the canvas, I had no intention of influencing her with regards to how the portrait should be painted. I believe in leaving it entirely up to the artist, my only request being that she try and capture Sash's loving, devoted, and playful spirit. I sent Anastasia copies of the 5 remaining photos that I had, and then began to wait with breathless anticipation.
one of the photos of Sasha presented to Anastasia
When presented with the final portrait I was humbled. My Sasha, my love, was looking back at me and smiling. I could feel her warmth and presence around me, and my heart felt that she was at peace. Over the years I have seen Sasha in my dreams, and each time she tells me that she loves me, that she is home, and that she is at peace. Now, with great gratitude to Anastasia, the portrait of Sasha is hung in our office across from the desk, and I have the privilege of seeing her smiling face every single day.
"Sasha" 30x40 cm acrylic painting by Anastasia Vanden Berghe
After having waited so long to fulfill my promise, I am now encouraged to continue in this direction, and repeat this act for our other pets. As art comes in various forms, we decided that the best representation of our active and energetic 8 year old German Shepard, McKayla, was to schedule a photo shoot with Lisbeth Ganer, a photographer who is specialized in capturing dogs in motion. Years from now I want to be able to remember McKayla as she is today - joyful, energetic, happy, and loving, and having these photos will forever provide me with that reassurance and comfort long after she's gone.
McKayla's photo shoot with Lisbeth Ganer
Our next investment is to have our 10 year old tuxedo cat, Zoe, painted by another of our featured artists, Margriet Fischer. We like the way Margriet chooses the colors for the animals portrayed in her work and think that her style is best suited to reflect Zoe's true essence. I met with Margriet in person before deciding to proceed, a luxury that isn't always possible, but this extra step was necessary to me as these portraits are very personal and connecting with the artist plays an important part. Nevertheless we are looking forward to collaborating with her and are excited to see how the portrait turns out.
"Myntha" acrylic painting by Margriet Fischer
In my opinion, investing in art is a very personal and subjective matter, and one that cannot be rushed into. It has taken time and a change in perspective for me to be able to appreciate the museums and galleries that I once shied away from. I no longer feel content with the bare walls that have existed for so long, and instead have decided that it's finally time to add bit of color and bring them back to life. Art is portrayed in many different forms and fashions, but regardless of what style and texture you choose, it's imperative that the memories are preserved and the history continues to live on.