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Artist Josephine Turalba's K9 Exhibit Shows Renditions Of Man's Best Friend

A closer examination of these canine sculptures reveals their material. They are fashioned from metal, beads and bullets, shotgun shells and bullet casings fired by .22 guns, instruments that injure and can even kill

In the exhibit, "K9," artist Josephine Turalba has regaled art enthusiasts at Aphro Living with her renditions of man’s best friend: sculptures depicting dogs in various wanton postures of repose. In one vignette, Bill is on his belly, paws in a relaxed state, his tongue sticking out, as if he was just satiated with his favorite treat. Gus Baby, a long-eared dog, has flattened himself to the surface supporting him, in pure surrender to the warmth of the moment, his ears spread out; he seems to be in a state of utter contentment.

A closer examination of these canine sculptures reveals their material. They are fashioned from metal, beads and bullets, shotgun shells and bullet casings fired by .22 guns, instruments that injure and can even kill. Contrary to the warm and fuzzy nature of the animals that they depict, Josephine’s choice of materials points to her artistic practice that explores the politics of violence and the process of healing. 

“There are many layers into my interdisciplinary practice and bullets have long been in the roster of my materials. In 2006, I lost my father to four bullets and that began my work with the ballistic medium. Early on, my work dealt with death, grief, violent loss, and gun violence on the personal level. Processing my own loss and understanding my questions with fate, I had grown to accept what had happened despite that no justice was served for the murder. I came to deeply understand life’s duality⁠—that death is determinedly linked with life like the front palm and back side of a hand and that with out death, there is no appreciation of life.

"Embracing the basic human nature that we have in us the proclivity of violence enabled my healing. My research progressed as I learned to then be comfortable with life’s uncertainties. I looked beyond myself and found a universal connection to humanity. The concern of life is universal and is wrought about by survival, which results to the race to control the world. My research focus on the violence that pervades caused by geo-political shifts, as I watch the race for global control. Working with spent casings allowed me to ‘neutralize’ the psychological grip the violent murder had on me. With these K9 sculptures. I extended my materials to bronze, copper, semi-precious stones and glass,” Josephine reveals about her work.

In "K9," one cannot help but notice the irony of bullets, objects associated with violence, depicting dogs in all sorts of domestic poses. Although made of metal, their expressions are pure, playful and endearing, pointing to the artist’s desire to capture the healing aspect with which these creatures grace human lives.  “I grew up with dogs as my mother loved dogs. Currently, we have two French Bulldogs who I love dearly. I looked at the arsenal of the police force and saw that the K9 unit plays an important role. The dogs work just as much as their handlers. Connecting these two elements, I wanted to show an appreciation of these hardworking dogs and essentially the therapeutic role dogs for people.

"Some of the dogs, like the Frenchies, are manifestations of the dogs I currently own, also some of the other dogs are inspired like Gus Baby, but I would say that I like to work with the first ideas that come to mind. So, it's a mix of inspiration and conceptualization. My exhibition shows the many different poses and moods that endear dogs to humans giving tribute to our most loyal animal friends,” Josephine shares.

For Josephine Turalba, art is very much about life itself.  It is “lived [as well as] created.” “Many times, I would describe my practice as personal and political (borrowed from the woman artist group, Guerrilla Girls), the personal and the collective, a continuing journey of discovery and experimentation towards an understanding of identity,” she says.  

Of the pack of dogs she has created for "K9," the artist was inspired by some furbabies that she considers family: “Those dogs have been part of our household, sometimes getting priority over our cook’s attention since she attends to them before us. You know, I just love the company they give methey’re so affectionate and loving.  The first dog painting I made immortalized Pablo. The dog sculptures are all special, like my children. I don’t have a favorite one since I dedicated time and effort into every one to have its own story,” Josephine shares.

Catch Josephine Turalba’s art here and abroad: Art Politics/Border Crossing Project (conference and exhibition) in South Korea. In October, she will be part of the Period Show at the Boston State House, sponsored by MASS NOW organization, in support of the I AM bill. Her solo show in Galeria Duemila is slated for January 2020, and in February 2020, she will be participating in the ALT exhibition in SM Aura.

Photographs by Jar Concengco