Over at Endicott's blog I posted about a terrific Paula Rego exhibition coming up at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, but I wanted to give a little more space here to some of my favorite Rego paintings. She has done a couple of series: Girls and Dogs (late 1980s) and Dog Women (early 1990s). The Dog Women paintings pastels are brilliant -- women doing dog activities such as baying at the moon, grooming, and sleeping.
The power of the images for me comes in the juxtaposition of the domestic with the wild, an animal bride in her private moments celebrating her dual nature. Rego says of these dog women: "In these pictures every woman's a dog woman, not downtrodden, but powerful. To be bestial is good. It's physical. Eating, snarling, all activities to do with sensation are positive. To picture a woman as a dog is utterly believable."
An earlier series of paintings, "Girls and Dogs," creates playful and sensual images of our intimate relationship with dogs. Dogs are traditionally identified as "man's best friend" but Rego gives us a nurturing as well as interestingly ambiguous relationship between girls and their dogs. These paintings remind me so much of my daughter and her (mostly) pitbull dog who has been her faithful companion for the last four years, criss-crossing continents and multiple houses. After so much travel, they have a language all their own (most of it in Spanish with nuggets of Portuguese when they play capoeira) and a very deep appreciation for each other.