Neapolitan Mark Barone has spent more than four decades capturing human struggles on canvas as a representational oil painter. After he rescued two dogs, Santina and Rudy, from living on the streets, Barone’s eyes were opened to a struggle he had never painted before: his own. The rescue dogs played instrumental roles in helping Barone heal from a troubled upbringing and personal wounds. “They gave me the kind of love and acceptance I’d never experienced,” he explains.
From his experiences, Barone felt compelled to raise awareness “for the hopeless fate of shelter animals.” But what could he do to help? For Barone, there was only one answer: paint. In a four-year period, he completed a remarkable 5,500 portraits of shelter dogs, which represents, according to Barone, the approximate number of dogs euthanized daily in the United States. “I had to figure out a way to paint five every day,” Barone recollects. As his portraits normally take between seven and 14 days to complete, the task was Herculean, but he accomplished it by working nearly every day.
The project, branded as An Act of Dog, is complete, but Barone continues to raise awareness with his work. Currently, he has partnered with Semper Fi Service Dogs, a nonprofit organization that rescues dogs from shelters, training them as service dogs free of charge for veterans. Forty percent of portrait sales are donated to this organization helping both dogs and vets.