I still have more to share about my visit to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, but while I’m collecting my thoughts, I wanted to tell you about a fantastic artist I met in Kanab. I fell in love with Cyrus Mejia’s art because it filled me with joy, and now that I’ve seen more of it I’m overwhelmed with the message behind his art. It has literally moved me to tears on several occasions.
After we had checked into our hotel, I had a little down time before dinner and decided to walk around Kanab on my own. It is a cute town set in one of the most dramatic landscapes I’ve ever seen.
On a whim, I entered Raven’s Heart Gallery, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I could have made. It is a small gallery, and has a beautiful collection of artwork, but I was mesmerized by two large charcoal studies on one of the back walls.
The young woman who was working at the gallery told me that one of the gallery owners, Cyrus Mejia, is also the creator of these portraits. I asked for a card, fully intending on writing him an email asking to feature his work.
At dinner that night, I showed a photo from the gallery to my new friends and raved about this magnificent place.
Later, we were talking about the events planned for our first day at the Sanctuary including a hike led by one of the co-founders of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, Cyrus. I practically shrieked with excitement, hoping it was the same Cyrus. And yes, it was!
Cyrus is an excellent tour guide, personable, entertaining and informative. About half way through our incredibly gorgeous hike, I couldn’t contain myself anymore, and I mentioned to Cyrus that I found his gallery, and I loved his work. Well, “mention” is probably the wrong verb, but let’s just pretend I didn’t break into fangirl mode. It is my version of the story and like Monica, I want to come off as breezy.
Cyrus was very gracious and invited all of us to stop by the gallery the next night when he was going to be there. Cyrus is a gifted artist, as well as a co-founder of Best Friends, and he uses his art to make a difference.
These charcoal studies that filled my heart and soul with pure joy are part of a project called Pits And Perception. I have been privileged to see many of the world’s most famous paintings in person, but I’m not sure any have touched me quite like this one.
From Cyrus: “Art can present us with a different view, a new perspective, another way of thinking about things. In this series of paintings of Pit Bulls, I’m challenging the current-day perception of these dogs. Not by changing their image, but by depicting them close-up, larger than life, and inviting the viewer to question how they see and perceive Pit Bulls.
The inspiration for this project came to me from two discoveries. First of all, the understanding that pit bulls and other so-called “bully breeds” account for a large percentage of animals being destroyed in shelters. And secondly, the realization that public perception of these dogs has changed over the years, and their reputation as vicious killers is fairly recent.
I gave myself a challenge. To create art, that could help change public perception of pit bulls. The idea that came to me was to fill a room with larger-than-life paintings of pit bulls and invite viewers to look closely at these dogs. I remember reading that Georgia O’Keefee decided to paint her series of large flowers to force people to stop and look at the flowers. I figured that I would do the same thing for the pit bulls.”
While visiting Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, I saw another painting by Cyrus Mejia. This one is part of the Mill Dogs Revenge project.
What I didn’t realize at first, is that Velma is not a white dog, but rather the painting is unfinished and she is in charcoal because she is a “work in progress.” Each piece of the Mill Dog Rescue Project has a small description of the dog which speaks volumes. “Velma-Permanent head tilt from years in a cage breeding for the market. Now safe as a Princess.”
“Emily-splayed feet from living in breeder’s cage, now pampered and loved.”
“Tootsie- shut down and unresponsive from a life of forced breeding, now alert and curious about the good life! “
“Mindy–Frightened, Tattooed, and Imprisoned. Now Free From Suffering.”
In addition to making the world a better place, Cyrus also offers custom pet portraits. You can learn more about the process here.
I encourage to look at the art in your home and if you don’t love it, replace it with something personal and meaningful like a pet portrait!