VON BOCK FARM
By Nancy Marano
Just up the road from Abiquiu is the tiny community of Los Silvestres. This area has been home to sheepherding and farming since the original Spanish land grants. Now Abiquiu, and the surrounding area, is filled with artists' studios. Von Bock Farm is a combination of old and new.
The word "artist" may conjure up the image of a person in a studio surrounded by brushes and paints or someone out on the mesa painting a landscape. Lori Faye Bock fits neither stereotype.
This small, blond woman, with the warm, joyous laugh, is more apt to be found passing out carrots to the sheep, giving medication to Tresi, her 10-year-old epileptic cat, or picking delectable greens for a luncheon salad at the organic farmer's next door.
"I observe our animals a lot. Sometimes my husband has to remind me it's been three days since I was in the studio. All that goes into my paintings, though. I watch and listen to the animals," she said.
Lori Bock with one of the sheep (photo by Richard Bock)
You might have seen Lori Faye's work at the Waxlander Gallery in Santa Fe or featured on the Animal Humane Association's (AHA) National Tag Day posters. She paints animals - cats, dogs and sheep. They are the animals she lives with, but Lori's talent and whimsy transforms them into animals with attitude.
While Lori Faye is painting, her husband, Richard, probably is working in the sheep pens or apple orchard. But he might be online pursuing his livelihood as a stockbroker.
Animals are the center of life at Von Bock Farm. Wags and Dreamboat, two rescue dogs, act as official greeters. Merriali, Abi, Tresi, and H.G. Tux are indoor cats, while Fanny, a 14-year-old who got her name from an unfortunate encounter with a truck's fanbelt, is the outdoor cat. Assorted geese and ducks noisily make their presence known. Then there are sheep, 55 of them. Many are rare, Jacob sheep.
Jacob sheep at the Von Bock farm (photo by Norma Southard)
FOR THE LOVE OF SHEEP
"I read in a minor breeds magazine about sheep breeds that were disappearing. One of them, the Jacob sheep, traces its lineage back to Biblical times. They are black and white with four horns. In fact some people mistake them for goats, " Richard said. "I decided to raise them to help preserve the breed. In 1992, I went to Fort Collins, Colorado and brought Marisa home with me. She's the queen, the matriarch of our flock. We also have a few Churros."
"We put the wool back into the soil around the trees and plants," Richard said. "It makes excellent fertilizer, a trick I learned from an old, organic farming magazine."
The sheep and other animals are part of the Bock's family. Every sheep has a name. Several are named for mutual funds while others are named after flowers or Richard's favorite singers.
"Spring is my favorite season here because it's lambing time. To watch those little guys pop out and stand within 20 minutes is a miracle," Lori said.
But, sometimes, even miracles go wrong. Over the years Richard has cared for several lambs that were rejected by their mothers or were too weak to stand. He brings the lamb into the house so it can receive the food, medication and love it needs. This also means constant attention from him and Lori Faye.
"On most farms they would be left to die, but that doesn't apply here," Richard said. "I've found that nurturing these lambs and tending sheep teach you what's important. You can bond as deeply with a sheep as you can with a cat or dog."
Most sheepherders complain about the number of sheep they lose to predators like coyotes, but Richard has never lost a sheep, although he hears, and occasionally sees, coyotes near the river. To solve this problem Richard fenced the sheep pens and put four guard dogs with the sheep. Panda and Sally are Border Collies. Bianca and Blitzen are Great White Pyrenees. These gentle animals live outdoors with the sheep they guard, and obviously do a first-rate job.
"This place is living proof that you can coexist with coyotes," Richard said.
Abiquiu Hospitality: Wags and Amelia (photo by Richard Bock)
BOLD COLORS AND WHIMSICAL SCENES
As a responsible companion animal owner herself, Lori wants to spread the message that an animal is for life. When you get an animal, you must care for it as long as it lives. "Animals are not to be thrown away. There are so many adoptable animals out there that need loving homes, and they repay you with such love," Lori said.
Once her paintings began to gather a following, she was besieged with requests from animal welfare organizations for a painting to use as a fundraiser.
"I wish I could give to all of them but I'm only one person and I just don't produce work that fast," Lori said. "My husband contacted the national animal welfare organizations, and I decided to see whether I could do something with AHA."
As a result, Lori provided the image for AHA's 2000 National Tag Day campaign. The campaign’s goal is to remind people that animals need to have identification tags or a microchip. Even an indoor cat can slip through an open door. The chosen painting, I Will Protect You, features a blue dog and golden cat standing together in a loving, protective pose. She also did the poster for Tag Day 2001 and has been asked to do the one for 2002's poster.
"I volunteered in the cat room at the Española shelter for a while," Lori said. All the kittens would play around me and I'd think, 'How can they euthanize any of these?' I decided I'm one of those people who needs to help in another way."
Lambs at the Von Bock farm (photos by Richard Bock)
Lori Faye allows her sense of humor free rein in the titles she chooses for her pieces. In the Kitchen But Not in the Oven shows a sheep standing on a tiled, kitchen floor. Should We Walk or Take a Taxi? depicts a cat and dog sitting on a city sidewalk with apartments rising behind them. In No Kiddin'...You Play, Too? a cat strolls along the piano keys while looking back over its shoulder with a quizzical expression.
"People seem to really enjoy my off-the-wall humor so I've started putting more writing on the front of the pieces where people can see it," Lori said.
Lori Faye Bock takes a fresh look at the relationship between cats and dogs and the people with whom they share a home.
"Animals are our best buddies. They know what you need, and they're always there for you. We're so blessed to live the life we do in this tranquil, country setting among all these animal friends, and we wish more people had such an opportunity," Lori said.
After a day at Von Bock farm, you want to rush home and give your own companion animal an extra hug and a special treat.
See Lori Faye Bock's paintings at:
Waxlander Gallery, 622 Canyon Rd., Santa Fe, NM 87501.
(505) 984-2202 www.waxlander.com
Lori Faye Bock's website: www.lorifayebock.com
Visualize Catalog: www.visualize.com
NextMonet Catalog, 444 Townsend Street, San Francisco, CA 94107.
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