Moira McLaughlin is here to tell us how her gorgeous little rescue guy changed her life! "When Darby, my 17-year-old Longhaired Dachshund, died in 2011, I unravelled. He was my muse and partner, the inspiration for my blog Dog Art Today and my lifeline to normalcy after losing everything to fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue ten years earlier. My grief terrified me. I knew that I needed a dog, my mental and physical health depended on it, but I couldn’t conceive how I would ever find one. Every single person that I confided my fears to answered me with the same three words, “You will know.”
After adoption fairs, doggie dates, and in home visits of dogs I couldn’t commit to, I saw a photo of Tyler on Petfinder.com and it happened. I knew. There was my dog, a stray pup with a grisly wound who was saved from death row because of his smiling eyes and wagging tail.
I nursed Tyler back to health, and he brought me back to life. But I struggled with making art. I had been working on a Darby calendar when he died. I had only finished the month of July. Continuing that project only triggered more grief, but making art about Tyler seemed disloyal. I shut my studio door for six months and became a farmer.
Meanwhile, Tyler started collecting bits of nature on our walks. His curiosity was humbling because I couldn’t identify a single branch, feather, snake, acorn, butterfly or mushroom he brought to me. Inspired by 19th century naturalists, I began to tag and date each object and note my uneducated response to them. His persistence made me wonder if he might be the reincarnation of John Muir.
As our project progressed into the driest seasons of California’s history, the objects took on new significance. The drought is imperiling our ecosystems. Already 47 animals are on the state’s endangered species list, and another 36 are listed as “threatened.” Native fish, normally able to weather natural drought years, are unable to survive the man made systems that mimic perpetual drought. And the foothill pine, native to Nevada County, is succumbing to dwarf pine mistletoe brought on by water deficits that make way for bark beetle infestation and death. At the rate we’re going, on a global level, 400,000 species will be extinct by the year 2100.
This summer, our collaboration, entitled, Tyler Foote Finds: A Compendium of My Ignorance, is part of The DANK Inaugural art exhibition in Nevada City, California. Viewing it in a a gallery setting added another dimension to our endeavor; inviting questions about art, money, impermanence, beauty, commodification, and knowledge. Collaborating with Tyler Foote has forever changed my process as an artist, and, more importantly, my connection to nature. It’s made me rethink, when we’re tethered together, my animal companion and I, who’s leading whom?"
P.S. "Tyler Foote is a road in Nevada County, California, built in 1913 by Arthur DeWint Foote, artist and writer Mary Hallock Foote's husband. It connects North Columbia, California to a town called Cherokee that used to be called Tyler. "