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All in a day’s work for Aspen’s newest celebrity

John Colson
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado
Paul Conrad The Aspen Times
ALL |

ASPEN ” The phrase, “a dog-day afternoon,” popularized in the 1970s, thanks to the movie of the same name, has taken on new meaning for Aspen-area artist Dick Carter.

In this case, though, it does not involve Al Pacino, bank robberies or hostage crises.

But it certainly does involve political and personal ideology, and is directly linked to that annual stretch of time known as the dog days of summer.

The longtime artist is putting out a regular cartoon featuring his dog, a Jack Russell terrier named Joe, which offers a homespun web of philosophical nuggets on politics, life, religion, cosmology, and more. You name it, and the “Dog of the Day” will cover it, from what Carter admits is a “way left” point of view.

Sent to a growing list of e-mail contacts, the cartoon is featured on a website [http://gallery.me.com/dickcarter46#100054] and is soon to come out as a hard-copy series of pamphlets encased in a box, kind of like a boxed-set of CDs.

Carter, who came to Aspen in 1971 from his native state of New Jersey and worked with renowned Bauhaus artist Herbert Bayer, had moved with his wife and kids to California in the 1980s, and ultimately became an art director and set designer, mainly for television commercials.

After his wife, Claudette, died in 2007 after a swift but valiant battle with cancer, he moved back to Aspen. He said he first started sending photos of his dog in different situations to his two grown children (who live in the Los Angeles area) last spring as a way of keeping in touch.

“It was more about, like, hiking and appreciating nature, but with a funny twist,” Carter recalled of his initial efforts, which had the photos along with a running commentary.

“It started out more philosophical, musings on life, very zen. But then the political season heated up, and it became inevitable that he (Joe) had to deal with that stuff,” he continued, although the philosophizing did not stop.

It wasn’t long before one of Carter’s nephews, being a fan of Joe and computer savvy, suggested Carter start morphing the photos into cartoons with a special software program that already was loaded onto Carter’s Macintosh computer.

Joe, it turns out, is a fan of the late poet John Robinson Jeffers, and in one edition Joe ponders his place in the universe and declares, “I am not-man.” It was a reflection on Jeffers’ notion that the world is in transition, from a present emphasis on man and man’s works, to a future return to a focus on nature with man out of the picture.

Generally, Carter said, “there are certain standard things I try to do” in every edition, starting with some errant thought that occurs to him … er, to Joe, such as “In these trying times, a dog turns to considerations of cosmology,” next to a goofy photo of Joe hamming it up on a rock or somewhere. Then, he will surf the Internet for “some juicy quotes” on a philosophical tangent of some kind, and then end up with “some kind of ironic comment on the whole thing.”

For instance, in a recent series Joe took off on “kind of a gentle rant against all the political shit I’m getting in my e-mail: “Sweet jumping Jesus, this political shit is just to f*****g much” ” oh, yeah, sometimes we swear ” “blame it on the internet.”

So, he’s looking at his computer, sees pictures of Sarah Palin that everybody’s getting, and he’s already convinced that the Republicans are “a bunch of lying, dick-smokin’, kool-aid sipping sons o’ … it’s nice to be objective.”

Joe then asks himself, “Is it possible these two zombies could walk among us?” and takes off on another rant, finishing with, “Just to be safe, vote Obama, put some cash in the mattress and kick some Republicans. The dog wishes everyone peace, love and FDIC insurance.”

Originally a five-days-a-week proposition, Carter had to dial it back recently and sent out a message to his fans, “I can’t do this every day any more, because I’m actually trying to make real art here. I’ve got a show coming up.”

He explained that he is putting together a show of paintings of lighting strikes, which is to open at the Floria Gallery in Aspen around the first of the year.

In the meantime, he is working with local graphics artist Reina Katzenberger on the hard-copy versions of “Dog of the Day,” which he expects to have ready by mid-November.

“I’ve already got two bookstores that want to carry it,” he said, one an alternative bookstore in L.A. and the other a museum bookstore that he has worked with in the past. And he expects to sell a couple of dozen or more to friends and Internet fans, at “about a hundred bucks a pop, which will pay for the costs of production and printing.”

He is already planning on a second hard-copy edition next year, probably during the winter as a counterpoint to the summer-flavored first edition.

“This one’s all flowers and sunshine,” he laughed, “the next one will be all strum and drang ” a lot of Nietzsche and Kant and Heidegger and all that crap.”

jcolson@aspentimes.com


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