Dog Training, Art, and the patron…

Andy Goldsworthy, Pebbles around a hole, Kinagashima-Cho, Japan (1987)


Any of my clients that know me even a little bit, know that I have a wide ranging set of interests and I just LOVE it when those interests collide with a clients’ interests and the world in general.

Far to often I have clients call me an artist.  I’m not sure I would go along with that statement in general, and certainly not where the dogs are concerned.  I do have a grand appreciation for art in many forms from paintings to sculpture to…Stone walls!  Yesterday I had one of those lovely collisions of serendipity where mind, work, and art collide and make for an amazingly enjoyable day and conversation with one of my clients.

I was working with one of my long time clients and dare I say Patron of the dog training arts on Wednesday.  This client happens to be a major art collector  and has a stunning collection of works that always delight me when I get to visit her home and work with her dogs.  She always takes the time to show me her new acquisitions and for some reason her tastes are right along the lines of mine.  Granted, being a dog trainer precludes me from collecting things like Richard Serra’s or Theaster Gates’, but during our visit yesterday I noticed a piece of art at her next door neighbors that looked like an Andy Goldsworthy .  That piece wasn’t actually a Goldsworthy, it was a knockoff, but she said that she had commissioned a number of pieces by Mr. Goldsworthy at her vacation home.  I got chill bumps right away as Mr. Goldsworty is one of my favorite contemporary artists.

Mr. Goldsworthy has fascinated me for years because he incorporates stone walls into his work.  I have been a student of stone walls for many many years and I very much admire the artistry and work it takes to build dry stack walls.  I’m so much a fanatic of stone walls that I’ve been known to write to authors of books on walling in the past.  These letters usually lead to puzzled responses from the authors but I guess this shows the depth of my interest.

This is where things get interesting with the conversation, because I would suspect that the wallers that do the work don’t actually think of their work as Art with a capital A either.

My client went on to describe the pieces that Mr. Goldsworthy had created for her and how he brought a team of wallers from Scotland over with him to do the grunt and grind walling work.  They stayed at her house all summer for 3 summers and worked away on the project so she had quite a bit of time to meet him and discuss his work.  I was fascinated with the idea that these guys can build such work and do the day to day lifting of rocks, have sore knees and backs, and basically do what is a workaday job while creating such lovely art.  Mr. Goldsworthy’s work is big, heavy, and takes a lot of time and a lot of clear vision of what it should look like when it’s completed and it’s made from big piles of chaotic stone when they start.  A lovely thought for me.

So, back to dog training, is it art? Does the skill technique and grind of doing things over and over create a sort of “art” with the dogs. Does starting with a big huge pile of chaotic behaviors and fitting pieces together until the dog understands what you want and “sees” your vision for him count as art?  I’m going to have to ponder that for a while, but the the mere fact that I could have such a beautiful conversation with one of my clients about her art collection and how it relates to work in general as well as mine in specific, is one of the reasons I love what I do and doubly love the people that I meet.

In closing, here is a video of Andy Goldsworthy doing some of his “thing”.