The “Big Dog” Art of Beth Knight
Walking through the Mission district on my way to Art Explosion, I passed half a dozen people taking their dogs for a mid-morning stroll. It occurred to me that San Francisco is as much a contender for the title of “Doggiest City In The World” as any other, and nowhere is this better illustrated than in the paintings of Academy of Art University MFA candidate Beth Knight. Although only one of them is actually titled “Dogzilla,” that is Beth’s current series summed up in a single word. Gigantic corgis, terriers, chihuahuas, and Beth’s “intern” Mia (her enthusiastically friendly boxer) romp and lounge around familiar San Francisco landmarks. The result is a seamlessly cohesive series that leaves you eagerly wondering what will happen next.
“She keeps selling them,” muses Jennifer Farris of Studio Gallery. “I keep telling her to save them for her Master’s thesis.” But from my visit to her studio at Art Explosion, there’s no shortage of Dogzillas. Beth keeps regular work hours, and her diligence shows. Mia keeps her company, sits for a portrait now and then, and occasionally get’s closer to a canvas than she should. I’ve seen a photo of Mia with a blue smudge on her ear.
Beth prefers the flat-faced breeds for her subjects. “They have the most expressive faces.” She also likes to compose paintings according to the breeds’ personalities. A stubborn corgi refuses to budge for a cable car, a regal greyhound waits patiently for a Muni bus, and leisurely bassets bask among sea lions. Her style has changed little since she began, but Beth has constantly honed her technique. “I started out in animation,” she tells me, but she got hooked on painting once she got a brush in her hand. Moving from acrylics to oils, and from canvas to panels, Beth has zeroed in on a medium that is perfectly suited to her style.
Still, not everyone “gets it.” As I lingered before Beth’s “Bully Beach” at Studio Gallery’s Waterfront exhibit, someone scowled and asked “but why is the dog so big?” Well of course, that’s the question, isn’t it? Why are Dali’s clocks melting? But I simply replied, “because poetry doesn’t always have to rhyme.”
In this case, it pants and woofs.