Rachel DiAndrea adores animals.
She loves them so much that the artist, a resident of Altoona, initially dreamed as a child of being a veterinarian.
"I grew up preparing for that," DiAndrea said. "In my high school years, however, I took an art class, and I fell into something I love. I had an art teacher that helped me redirect my skills. I went from being vet-oriented into an artist.
Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich
Altoona artist Rachel DiAndrea poses beside some of her paintings at SAMA-Altoona.
"As an artist, we draw what we like and what we are passionate about. I love animals - horses, dogs - and the bond between animals and people is what I had to put down on paper."
DiAndrea has spent "decades" pursuing her pet passion through art, and 40 pieces of her work are now displayed in a new exhibit, "Dog and Pony Show" in the George A. and Herbert T. Wolf Gallery at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Altoona, Brett Building, 1210 11th Ave., Altoona. The show starts today and runs through Aug. 2.
In her early years, DiAndrea first began to grasp the deep relationship between animals and their owners.
If you go
What: "Rachel DiAndrea: Dog and Pony Show" art exhibit
Where: The Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Altoona, Brett Building, 1210 11th Ave., Altoona
When: Today through Aug. 2. Regular museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. The museum is closed Sunday, Monday and holidays.
Admission: Free to the public
"I grew up in a rural area, and we had a strong 4-H program," she said. "Through that, I became interested in dog obedience, and I realized then that there was a big bond between dogs and people. They become very in tune [and] develop a really special bond.
"I do believe there is a soul to every animal, and it's my job to capture that inner soul and put it down on paper. It doesn't matter what form a pet comes in, whether it's a cat or a rabbit, I strive to catch each animal's personality."
She feels it is that connection that draws people toward animal artwork.
"It's a reflection of the person," she said. "They say people look like their dogs; people reflect their pets' personalities. My job is to intepret that connection and bring it out with color."
DiAndrea - who recently placed third in a national juried fine arts competition titled "Art Show at the Dog Show" in Wichita, Kan. - is successful in her efforts, said SAMA-Altoona site coordinator Barbara Hollander.
"Her [work], in particular, captures their personality," Hollander said. "If you are an animal lover, you'll like it. They are happy pieces, bright and cheerful.
"She is free and creative. She is not afraid to take chances. If she wants to use purple, she will, but she doesn't lose the dignity of the animal."
DiAndrea's exhibit features a variety of animals.
"My own dogs - I have a poodle named Babette and a Chinese crested named Bling Bling - are part of the exhibit," DiAndrea said. "There are animals I have come across, animals of people I have known."
Hollander thinks DiAndrea's exhibit will appeal to a broad audience.
"A lot of times, people are afraid to come [to an art exhibit]," Hollander said. "They are insecure about their art knowledge. This is an exhibit anyone can relate to, from an art connoisseur to a novice."
The museum will celebrate DiAndrea's exhibit with a Blue Monday event from 6 to 8 p.m. May 5. The event will include a light supper and drinks, with music by Mountain City Grass. The cost is $20 per person.
DiAndrea will also speak at a Lunch a l'Art program at the museum at noon on June 18. The program will include lunch. The cost is $15 per person or $14 for SAMA members.
For more information or reservations for either program, call the museum at 946-4464.
DiAndrea also recently released her first book, titled "The Art of Being a Pet." The book is "a gallery collection of fine art illustrations and describes pets in a rhyming, whimsical style," according to a press release.
DiAndrea's book can be purchased by contacting her through her website, www.petartstudios.com, or on Amazon.
Mirror staff writer Cory Dobrowolsky can be reached at 946-7428.