Sculptors capture pet whimsy for SOHumane

Mother-daughter team creates 'faux steam punk art'
The Whimsicators’ creations include this grinning ‘faux steam punk’ cat sculpture.photo courtesy of Joy Olson

One of the most compelling items up for auction at SOHumane's Toast for Tails annual fundraiser Saturday night will be a 3-foot-high, boy-dog-cat "faux steam punk" assemblage by a local mother-daughter sculpting duo.

Created over three weeks and donated to the Southern Oregon Humane Society, the art, called "Love You to the Moon and Back," is the work of Deitrie Rodriguez and her mother, Toni Pocaro, of The Whimsicators.

They paint murals, do faux finishes and create steam punk art, which means that it has a lot of bolts, nuts, screws, springs, gears and what looks like moving parts. If they don't move, says Rodriguez, it's called faux steam punk.

The eye-catching sculpture, valued at about $700, is a natural conversation-starter. Whoever wins it in the bidding should display it in a protected spot inside, as it's mostly carved construction foam and won't stand up well to the elements or people poking it with fingers, says Rodriguez, a Medford resident.

It shows a goldish boy, made of 1-inch metal tubing with throbbing metallic heart and hearts for eyes, "in a lovey glow" for a silvery dog and bronze cat, who are clearly thankful for a second chance at life.

"The dog is saying, 'I'm your best friend,' and the cat is saying, 'Play, food, love,' " says Rodriguez.

SOHumane's popular social event has a goal of $125,000 and features dinner and both live and silent auction. Its 280 seats are already sold out this year. The sculpture will be part of the live auction and, says SOHumane Development Director Joy Olson, she looks for it to fetch a price far past its retail value.

"It could be bid up pretty high if some people start seeing it in their office or living room," says Olson, who said the artwork "perfectly captures" the idea of the love between people and their pets.

Olson says she has become a big fan of the work of Rodriguez and Pocaro.

"I think they are really creative and exciting," she said. "I think The Whimsicators name absolutely captures the fascination and whimsy that kind of exudes from their creations."

She's doubly excited about their work for the help it will give the Humane Society in its event and hopes bidders will be just as fired up when they see it.

"A lot of people absolutely love their pets and it touches their hearts a lot that (shelter animals) are homeless and don't have families that really love them yet. It's all about the furry darlings. It will be interesting to see the crowd reaction to this sculpture."

The sculpture is created mostly from found objects around the house and yard, with everything possible recycled, says Rodriguez, who crafted the cat. The work of Pocaro, who sculpted the dog, may be seen around the valley in restaurant murals at Si Casa Flores and other spots. The boy was jointly sculpted by the duo. Rodriguez can be reached at 541-301-6259.

"I know that they put hours and hours into the creation," says Olson, "and feel so lucky that we're able to present this at our auction."

SOHumane, now in its 86th year, adopted out 1,338 dogs and cats last year, spayed or neutered 600, and saved 700 from euthanasia at other shelters, according to sohumane.org.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.



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