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The Dog Walking Artist: When a Passion Becomes a New Midlife Career

We call them The Pushers—women who are pushing themselves in new directions and toward new passions. We hope that through their inspiration in this regular feature, they’ll push you to take a leap of your own—or maybe just a small first step. Who knows where you’ll end up?

Margot Guralnick stumbled on her new midlife path in the most ordinary setting—while on her daily rounds with her dog, Enrique, in a leafy corner of the Bronx where she lives. Margot, the architecture and interiors editor at Remodelista.com, assembles elements of nature she finds along the way into beautiful, striking patterns and photographs them. Follow her on Instagram—@dogwalkdiarynyc—and private message her if you’d like to inquire about prints or cards

Dog Walking Art: Turning Passion Into a New Midlife Path

Margot, with her dog Enrique standing watch, creating one of her assemblages on her daily walk near her home. Photo by Ted Conover

When and why did you start collecting pieces from nature and arranging them for photos?

I’ve been collecting things of all sorts since I was a kid: the usual sea glass and rocks, and also relics from flea markets, such as interesting old packaging and Fuller-Brush-man letter openers. I’m a treasure hunter (I actually own a metal detector!) and I’ve also always loved making arrangements of my things. More recently, on my daily outings with Enrique, I started gathering leaves and playing with them along the way. Holding the leash with one hand, I pull out my iPhone and take pictures with the other. The wind is blowing, the dog is barking, and I’m crouched down, completely engrossed.

What do you call this work and why?

I call it Dog Walk Diary and have been logging entries pretty much daily for the last year. It’s amusing and meditative for me. Also, as a lifelong packrat, I like the fact that what I create is ephemeral—most of my creations are made on the ground and left there. When I put together assemblages inside, I usually work on our kitchen table and then scatter it all back outside.

What does this work mean to you? What about it makes you happy and want to continue?

My arrangements started getting more elaborate this past spring and summer during an intensive stretch of work when I was yearning to be more hands-on and inventive. And since then making them has become my daily devotional. During these unsettling times, the natural world is a comforting companion.

Dog Walking Art: Turning Passion Into a New Midlife PathDo you have a background in art? Have you ever done anything like this before?

I don’t have a background in art, though my amazing sister, Jody Guralnick, is a great artist and lifelong inspiration for me (see JodyGuralnick.com and Dishstudio.com). But I’ve always been interested in art and design (Colorforms were a favorite childhood toy). Oddly, given my current botanical bent, I’m not at all a gardener. I’m a hunter-gatherer.

Were you influenced by any other artists?

I’m continually astonished by Andy Goldsworthy’s land art. And New York photographer Tanya Mancuso’s detailed prints of decaying nature are an inspiration. So are the intricate cut-paper botanicals by 18th century British artist Mary Delaney. Another big inspiration are the roadside shrines I’ve admired in Greece and Mexico (my husband and I were wed on a Day of the Dead in Oaxaca). I’ve never been to India, but seeing marigold garlands being strung in a Hindu temple in Queens also left a big impression.

What do you plan to do with this work?

I recently put together some books of my photos and was very pleased with the results. Friends have been placing orders, so I’ll have some prints and cards soon in the works. And I’m open to suggestions.

Why do you think people respond to it so positively?

I like to think I’m pointing out the exotic and delightful in the everyday.

Dog Walking Art: Turning Passion Into a New Midlife Path

Dog Walking Art: Turning Passion Into a New Midlife Path

Dog Walking Art: Turning Passion Into a New Midlife Path

Photo by Ted Conover

By Jeannie Ralston


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