What: The Sofa Sitters of Victoria
Where: Arts Centre at Cedar Hill
When: Opening Friday from 7 to 9 p.m. Continues through Sept. 24.
Carl and Daisy frown together on a broad-striped sofa. Angus slumps across a worn orange couch. And Blue does his best to get comfortable on a blue plush armchair that’s too small for him.
The unique thing about these portraits by artist Diana Durrand are that Carl, Daisy, Angus and Blue are not people, but dogs. And the furniture they’ve leapt onto are not in homes, but on Victoria’s street corners and boulevards.
Durrand said the 40-piece Sofa Sitters of Victoria series, created over two years, began when she was walking her own dog, Buddy.
“I had a really old dog who was starting to expire at the time and we were walking around the neighbourhood very slowly,” she said. “I just started noticing all this stuff people left out on the boulevards.”
Durrand had just returned to Victoria after about 30 years in Langley and the practice of leaving furniture on the street seemed unique to the city.
“It struck me as quite odd,” said the Fairfield resident.
Various elements intrigued her on those walks. First was the mystery: She never caught anyone putting them out and it seemed as though they always just appeared overnight. Second, Durrand said you could learn a lot about a person or family from their sofa — from the worn-out seats to the cat scratches on the back.
“I find they say a more about the owner than, say, a television,” she said. “There’s a lot of history in a sofa.”
Finally, if they weren’t picked up immediately, the couches evolved with weather exposure and as cushions went missing.
When Buddy died, she bought a new camera and started taking photos.
“I think it was a little cathartic for me to work on this project,” she said.
But something was missing.
She invited friends to take a seat, but it felt too self-conscious, she said.
Finally, she began asking strangers, who were walking their dogs, if she could borrow their canines for a quick shot.
Some would protest, saying they had trained their pets not to hop on furniture. But outdoors, it seemed, the rules were different.
“There wasn’t a single dog that didn’t get right on,” she said.
All owners were polite and most were proud to talk about their dogs, in a way that Durrand also considers a strong characteristic of Victoria, as a dog-friendly city.
The dogs added a sense of whimsy, she said, as well as belonging to the discarded pieces of family history.
Durrand, whose background is in painting and sculpture, printed the photos in black-and-white. She then hand-coloured them with chalk pastels.
She has invited her subjects to the opening, including her own dog, Sophie, a golden retriever who posed for some of the early-morning shots when there weren’t many dog-walkers about.
“Everybody’s probably going to be shampooed,” she said.