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A General Overview of Jeff Koons Puppy and Artists Work

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Analysis of Puppy

Artist Jeff Koons drew on the visual language of advertising, marketing, and the entertainment industry with the intent to “communicate with the masses”. Koons tested the boundaries between popular and elite culture, creating the 43 feet high West Highland terrier, Puppy. Koons utilized computer modeling to construct his extraordinary version of topiary sculptures that were common to eighteenth century formal gardens. Puppy was created out of a series of stainless steel armatures constructed to hold over 25 tons of soil watered by an internal irrigation system. Unlike many pieces of art, Puppy was not permanent, and has been installed in different locations around the world including Australia, Germany, and the United States. As of today, Puppy Is permanently installed in Spain.

Puppy is made out of a varies of flowers, and new flowers were planted each time the sculpture was reinstalled in a new location. Koons choice to use flowers in his sculpture was a conscious decision and ultimately makes up the meaning behind it. The material an artist uses has a lasting effect on the art, from the moment of the creative process to the impact it has on the viewer. The interpretation by the viewer is personal, yet the material contributes a great deal to the meaning proposed by the artist. Specifically, to Koons work, Puppy is made out of flowers to spread optimism, confidence, and security with the vibrancy and happiness it brings. Koon combined the most sentimental visual images and symbols – flowers and puppies – to elicit a specific emotion from his viewers. He combined elite references of topiary and dog breeding from his earlier work, with chia pets and hallmark greeting cards used in popular culture today. If this sculpture were made out of bronze or marble or steel, the meaning of it would completely change. Puppy was made in order to communicate with mass culture, displaying a cute familiar dog face while adding vibrancy and happiness. The flowers give Puppy an enjoyable aura and relaxing, secure presence to be around. The flowers also give the sculpture a living element, much like a real dog, needing care and nurturing to stay alive. A material like bronze, marble or steel are not warm or comforting the way that the flowers are, and the message Koons created would not get across. If Puppy was made out of one of these materials, it still could bring happiness when the viewers make a connection that it is still a dog, focusing on the cute face bringing security.

Much like Puppy and most pieces of art, the meaning of Conjoined (Getlein 248) by Roxy Paine is dependent on the materials used to create it. Paine’s works of art combine the organic and the manufactured, questioning our position between the man-made world that we control and nature’s world that we do not. Paine created a 40-feet-tall sculpture of two trees conjoined, whose branches connect in the middle of the air. The sculpture is made out of stainless steel and concrete, symbolizing what humans can control by manufacturing and what we can’t control by nature. If the materials of this piece of work were to change, the meaning would too. For example, if the sculpture was created out of real tree bark or flowers like Puppy, the message behind man-made would no longer be there. Unlike Puppy and Conjoined, the meaning of Reconstructed Icicles (Getlein 257) by Andy Goldsworthy would not drastically change if the materials did. Goldsworthy creates outdoor sculptures out of a variety of natural materials. When Goldsworthy creates these sculptures, they only last a few hours due to the wind and tide. In the photo of Reconstructed Icicles, he creates his piece with icicles, reconstructed and refrozen. The reason the meaning would not drastically change if the material did is because what he’s actually documenting is the disappearance of the work over time, as nature “erases” it. This could be done with a million other natural materials like snow, leaves, grass, stones, clay, etc.

Much like Goldsworthy’s work, many other artists create pieces that only last a few months, weeks, days, or even minutes. Although this is true, I don’t believe that a work of art that is intrinsically transitory in nature effects our interpretation, understanding, or acceptance of it. Take Puppy for example, before it was permanently installed in Spain, Puppy traveled from place to place, but still was equally beloved, if not more. Just because a piece of work is not meant to last forever, does not diminish the artistic expression that went into it, or the emotions felt when viewed. Although Goldsworthy’s art only lasted a few hours, he was able to take photos to document the work of art so it could still be viewed and appreciated and this goes for many other pieces of art.

Although Puppy was not originally permanent, from the day it was created I view the sculpture as art. From the creative process, to putting it all together, to the public seeing it and making their connections to it, I don’t see why it would not be considered art. Koons not only used both past and present, but combined sentimental visual images to allow his viewers to feel a certain way and make their own ideas of Puppy. I believe that art is the expression of anyone’s creative skill and imagination, especially when it is visual like a sculpture. Puppy is appreciated for not only it’s beauty but also its emotional power to make viewers feel happy, confident, and secure.

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