Photographs from a Veterinarian

29 Jul

Patricia Burke is a veterinarian with an appreciation of the arts including a lifelong interest and love of photography.   She volunteers at the RISPCA, where a woman recently asked about the birds.  Her response was “That all creatures great and small a bit – is a lie.”

Although Patricia has lived in R.I. now for over 20 years, she considers herself a native of New Mexico, where she grew up in Los Alamos, and suburban Washington, D.C., which people from that area will attest, might as well be a state. Between education at  four universities, and jobs,  Patricia has lived  in  New Mexico  (enchanting), Colorado  (pretty), Arizona (dramatic)  Nevada (hot), Minnesota (cold cold with 2 months of sauna  summer), Indiana  (Boilermaker),  Georgia (Go Dawgs!), Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia.   

Living in Providence though, has allowed her to take regular and adult classes in art history, photography and computer science, at schools such as RISD, Brown and CCRI. She felt at a disadvantage at RISD, imagining herself a left brain, a dog paddling in a pool of champion swimmer right brains. One totally selfish benefit of Photoshop classes at RISD—touching up of family photographs- especially –of herself.  Almost every family photo during childhood was taken by Patricia, starting at age 5, with a Brownie.  After her mother died, her father was going “our” (Patricia’s) pictures in the family photo drawer, and he said “Why are there so few of your mother? She responded “Mother tore them up if she didn’t like how she looked”. Now flash forward 20 years, he asks why there were so few pictures of Patricia in all of the family get-togethers.  “I delete most of them, or crop myself out. I am my mother’s daughter, in the digital age”. 

Over the last few years Patricia has been devoting more time to photography. She has long loved taking photographs of stained glass- the majority of which is found in Catholic and Episcopal churches.   After her aunt who was a Sister of St. Joseph died, Patricia started a project concentrating on depictions of St. Joseph, which quickly morphed into searching out and photographing animals depicted in stained glass.  She considers herself   “culturallyIrish catholic, even though she is more English and barely agnostic.  But she feels that one does not need to be religious to appreciate the beauty of the architecture, sculpture and art of many churches.   (Unfortunately the older, larger and most lovely, are the most threatened). 

The “lives of the  saints”  – be they historically accurate or legends,  like Greek and Roman mythology, and the associated  iconography and symbolism are fascinating and adds layers of meaning these works of art , which are attached to her creations . In researching the symbolic and historical use of animals in art, her veterinary medical background provides additional insights. Notations of domestic dogs are rare in church art; a notable exception is St. Rocco. (That name always sounded weird to her – because Rocco sounds like a nick–name (St. Liz vs. St. Elizabeth). And it sounds like tough guy at that; he could be Tony Soprano’s favorite saint). 

Always portrayed with a dog and a wound on his leg, St. Rock, Roch, Roche, or Rocco is not a historical saint. The story attached to him is of a French aesthetic, born in France, who traveled to Italy where he cared for plague victims. When  he himself contracted the disease,  he was either driven, or withdrew to the forest , where he would have died had it not been for  a rich man’s dog  who  sustained  him with bread stolen from his master’s table, and licked his wounds, helping to heal them. This oft –quoted   ‘old wives’ tale’ – that dogs licking their wounds heals them faster, has more than a grain of truth.

There is ongoing research in the separation and identification of chemicals in dog – and human– saliva which promote healings. Wound liking has the obvious benefits of removing superficial dirt and keeping an area moist, but it also can introduce an army of bacteria. As to why a species which considers cat stool to be a hors d’oeuvres, licks theirs and other’s wounds, you can use the same old punch line of “Because they can.”

Patricia also photographs landscapes, buildings, flora and fauna…the least cooperative of which, are her pets and patients. 

In addition to individual frameable photographs, she has created a series of greeting cards, some of which address large, but underserved groups- like step-children.   Patricia acquired her beloved step-mother -slash- BFF, at age 19.   The search for an appropriate mother’s day card was ….prolonged and frustrating since 99% included “Mother”, “mommy”, or a reference to: “when I was little.” One day, a cousin on the protestant side, announced she was converting to Catholicism.   Patricia whined “it’s not bad enough I have to search high and low for appropriate mother’s day cards, now I have found a “congratulations on making your first communion –for a 42 year old?”  

She is looking forward to her first Festival Fete art festival!

Check out her website http://onthesixthday.photoshelter.com/

Come out to our next festival, The City Art Festival on August 6, 2011, and support Patricia Burke!! :]

Check out The City Art Festival video to see the fabulous artists and vendors who will be at the show! :]

The City Art Festival is proud to be sponsered by Webster Bank along with City of Providnce, Cardi’s Furniture, RI MonthlyWhole FoodsNatural Awakenings, Yelp and Cat Country-WCTK.

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