Imagine the unusual life of this week’s cover artist, Massapequa resident Yvonne Dagger, as she divides her day between painting pet portraits and taking her therapy dog to visit children. The connections between her two practices are clear. Dagger’s love of animals prompts her to immortalize them on canvas. Some paintings feature one of her pets, including her recently deceased dog “Dagger Two,” which is on the current cover.
Her emotions come through when she paints. The pets seem so real, we want to reach out and touch them. They are truly a part of the family dynamic, especially in this kite-flying cover, titled “Letting Go,” when both the children and the dog share the thrill involved with sending a kite on its way. Dan’s Papers selected the cover to commemorate the 42nd annual Kite Fly, a free event to be held on August 3 at 5:30 p.m. Sagg Main Beach.
The kite is an everyday object, used as a metaphor on your cover. Have you done any similar paintings?
I painted my husband’s tie hanging on a rod, with flowers. I called it “Flower Power.” It was a metaphor for being an executive. But interpretation is up to the viewer. As you know, many of my works are narratives and open to different meanings.
Does the kite bring back any particular memories?
When I was younger, I would go to the beach or look for an open field to fly a kite. When we got it off the ground, we got so excited. You forgot you worked so hard.
Do you have other early memories that have significance in your artwork?
Fruits and vegetables. We would go to farmstands and love buying produce. Growing up in an Italian family, we would have a bowl of vegetables before our meat course. We were taught to enjoy things from the land.
How about the experience of going to a farmstand itself?
I love to help the local merchants. Once I find a local merchant I can trust, I go back and back. They even know my dogs. That means they know me.
Speaking of your dogs, you have a therapy dog, Ya Ya, who’s a cross between a lab and a golden retriever. What makes Ya Ya special?
She’s from the Canine Companions for Independence that provides highly trained dogs to help people. This week, for example, I am going to a school with a little camp where children cannot speak. I start slow and small, first having the children pet Ya Ya. Then I may brush the dog’s teeth. I give the kids a coloring book I made showing me and my dog and they may color that. They respond to the dog, clapping and smiling when they see Ya Ya.
You have gotten some well-deserved honors for your work with therapy dogs.
Yes, from the Town of Oyster Bay, which named me “Distinguished Woman of 2014 in the Arts.” And from Nassau County for Community Service.
The dogs have helped you like they have other people.
The dogs motivated me to paint pet portraits when I would see them in a shelter, for example. I could give them a legacy in a portrait so they could be remembered.
For more information on Yvonne Dagger, go to yvonnedaggerartist.com and see her work at Fitzgerald Gallery, 48 Main Street, Westhampton Beach.