We have this joke around here that Theodore is like A Boy in a Dog Suit. Like a kid, he sulks; he experiences wide eyed wonder; and he also enjoys sitting quietly, observing everything going on around him. He speaks to me, this dog.
He always has, from the day I met him at the Old Bridge Animal Shelter….
So, last Christmas, when Theodore’s Other Favorite Human presented me with a painting by Anna Dibble, which depicted Theodore in a world inspired by his namesake (Theo Van Gogh) and in a style that echoed Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’, I was entirely overwhelmed. And yes, there were tears.
But you know, the happy kind.
And this is the effect of Anna Dibble’s work. Her paintings tickle and charm and spark conversations. The animals in her paintings live in a kind of alternate reality.
With their natty attire, curious conversations (elucidated via the text Anna sometimes inscribes on her canvases) and very human dilemmas, her animals open the door to another world that vibrantly comes to life through her art.
“It’s an odd universe of amalgamated creatures who reflect the lives of humans. A rather twisted Jane Austen for the 21st century. This world of somewhat disgruntled dog people appeared in the first painting – and I’ve been following it, delving into it ever since.”
“I’ve always thought about the similarities and differences we have with dogs, cats, and even wild animals. In many ways the things we have in common with the other animals are our best traits. For this latest series – the paintings with text – the anthropomorphism expresses human social commentary and philosophy in a way that just wouldn’t work if there were people involved. Animals – like cartoon animation such as the Simpsons – are a good medium for humor about human beings.”
Theodore and I took a drive over to beautiful Landgrove, Vermont to visit Anna and her family (which includes her husband and two dogs named Pepper and Radar) as she worked on a bold, bright, multi-panel commission for the Beecher’s Handmade Cheese market due to open later this June in Manhattan’s Flatiron District.
As you might expect, Pepper (aka ‘Dial Up’, because there’s always a delay when she’s called to come) and Radar (aka ‘Eager to Please’ because she’s so darn affectionate and maybe a wee bit too needy) are two of Anna’s main muses.
But for as long as Anna can remember, this born and bred Vermonter has been drawn to animals and they’ve always influenced her work.
Both Anna’s father (Thomas Reilly Dibble) and her grandfather (Thomas Reilly Dibble Jr.) were artists well known in Vermont and beyond. In fact, when you visit Anna, you’re greeted by this striking Raven totem made by Anna’s father.
So, certainly, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. But despite her ancestor’s success, Anna’s had to build her own career as an artist from the ground up. From Vermont to the Big Apple, San Francisco and Los Angeles to Boston, over the past 30 years, Anna’s done a little bit of everything to keep her creative engine running.
“Over the years, I’ve fashioned a basic living in a variety of ways: workshop style teaching, animation, journalism, designing sets for operas and other theatrical productions, work for art commissions, design posters…”
And now at the age of 60, it seems she’s finally hit her professional stride with her own line of notecards, gallery sales, commissions and a book or two in the works. It’s been a long road, but a fruitful one and yet Anna has no illusions about how she came this far…
“It is 75 percent sweat and discipline, and 25 percent talent,” she said.
Spoken like a true artist.
Thanks Anna, for taking the time to share a little bit of your world with us. We’ll keep looking for your work, and we know we’ll be left smiling!
To learn more about Anna’s work, check out her websites:
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