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A Conversation with Colleen Black

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Painter and sculpturist Colleen Black started this year by creating two larger-than-life statues of bronze wolves, which led to a chance to show her work on Home and Garden Television. Their only request was that she sculpt another similar animal, which she did: a foam and plaster likeness of her dog, Dodge, sprayed in bronze, swinging from a rope in her mouth. Problems arose, though, when people near the South Side Brew House studios, where she lives and works, thought the dog was real, and Black was literally hanging it to death in her window -- just a testament to how eerily real her sculptures can look.

 

So how'd you get the HGTV gig?

I sent in an application and then they called me back really quick. It was like, I had sent in an application one week before and they called me one week later. They gave me a month to do this sculpture for them -- four of them -- because they needed to see it in all of its stages. But what they didn't understand was that this is not a piece of jewelry that you whip up in a day -- it was something that should have taken a month just for one, y'know, and they wanted at least four.

 

So how'd you manage to pull it off?

I had to have a friend come out and help me sculpt. Like the paws -- we needed the same paws done four times. So he'd come and we'd stay up until like 4 in the morning and get all punchy and laugh about how we were gonna hang the dog out the window and scare people with it. Then we ended up doing it, which was the crazy thing. He's like, "Who's across the street at the hospital? They get to see right in your window and see all these naked people running around your house all the time." That was the big thing -- I normally do only human figures, I don't do dogs.

 

I'm sure Rick Santorum will be pleased to know that.

Yeah, that I don't do dogs, and the really crazy thing is that I got down on my hands and knees earlier this year to do [the bronze wolves] and didn't get paid squat for it. So when HGTV sent me this application of recent work that I'd done, I sent them these pictures of [the bronze wolves]. So they sent me this thing back that said, "We want you to do something exactly like that." I said, "OK, well, can I do a human? I don't wanna do another dog." Plus, it was on national TV and I didn't want to misrepresent what I really like to do because I don't wanna end up doing dogs for the rest of my life.

 

So why'd you pick your dog Dodge for the model and what was the vision?

My whole point for doing this TV show was, y'know, you don't know if you're gonna get a lot of publicity from it, you don't know if you're gonna get a lot of sales from it, so you really can't count on anything. The only thing you can really count on is what you put across to people. And what I wanted to put across to people was a good feeling, send some good juju out there to whoever was watching the show. That's how I came up with the dog swinging from a vine because it was just kind of a fun sculpture and I knew I'd have fun with it, and I knew my personality would be able to come through on the show.

 

And people mistook that personality to be a dog lyncher?

I got back from the gym that day and my friend was just walking over to me and I said, "Hey man, there's a whole bunch of people standing down in the streets looking up at the dog! They really like it!" And he goes, "Uh, Colleen, uh, the police were here." I'm like, "What? The police were here? Why?" He goes, "Well, they thought that you hung your dog." I go, "Noooooooo!" So that whole thing blew up. The girl downstairs from the gallery came up and said there were families downstairs telling them to take that dog down out of the window, or go up and check and see if it was a real dog because it was disturbing their children. I felt really bad. The whole idea behind doing this was to make people laugh and -- I wrote the letter to the hospital [across the street from the Brew House], so I could get the word out there that there wasn't a sick person living in the Brew House.

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