Looking at art is a hotly contested activity. What's the right way to do it? How long should you stand in front of a piece? Are you supposed to gaze at work and go with your gut reaction to it? Now, a golden retriever named Ella Fitzgerald is rewriting the rules of art criticism for both human and animal viewers.
Boston-based artist Julia Powell adopted the aesthetically-inclined pup when she was seven weeks old. One day, Powell found Ella gazing at one of her paintings. She recorded the adorable scene and posted the video to her Instagram. Now, it's something Ella does regularly. "She'll spend as much as two minutes in front of a canvas and then she'll resume dog activities," Powell tells Creators. "She'll look at the same canvas as much as five times during the day."
Powell shared the first video of Ella's discerning gaze with the caption, "When you walk into your studio and your dog is just staring at your work and then she looks at you like you are the one who's interrupting… My dog, Ella Fitzgerald, annoyed art critic."
When looking at the artworks, Ella seems to be squinting. Once she notices Powell, her eyes return to their normal size and she visibly shifts, like a critic might if someone catches them off guard, lost in the beauty of a painting.
The video of Ella gazing at a "semi-abstract water painting on my easel" now has more than 10,000 views; Powell recently posted a new one with more than 4,000 views and over 100 comments.
Soon enough, photos of Ella staring at Powell's paintings starting making the rounds online, earning coverage from Boston Magazine and Mashable. Powell says, "I have been shocked by the attention she's gotten — I'm hoping it exposes my art to more people and makes people smile!"
There's a lot to get lost in when looking at one of Powell's oil, pastel, or watercolor pieces. Her natural landscapes closely resemble pieces of Impressionist art but with enough detail to feel as if you're falling headfirst into each idyllic scene. Powell noticed that Ella "particularly likes water" and the painter is currently working on "large scale oil paintings that feature water in some fashion."
Now that the internet knows about her art appreciation, could Ella catapult to art critic stardom? Could she pave the way for a legion of canine art critics who dole out feedback in barks and whines? Powell isn't sure. Something about the way Ella interacts with the pieces — and the close connection between the artist and her companion — makes the pup's consideration seem personal.
"She sleeps in my bed every night and she is pretty loyal to me, so I think the fact that I painted them makes a difference to her," says Powell. "When I paint in my studio she comes in and sleeps or rests near me and/or looks at the paintings, so I think it's a way for her to bond with me."
To learn more about Julia Powell's art click here.