During our conversation there is both - laughter and passionate exclamations, and there is a moment in which Linda can’t hide her tears. Tears roll out because of pain for fellow people, who are misunderstood, such as Greta Thunberg, who has been offended in comments by people, without getting a deeper understanding of her illness. About stereotypes which divide and prevent society from accepting people with differences. About the suffering of animals and nature. And at the moment, a little bit about herself too, because for her this Covid time has been difficult and has taken away a bit of her strength.
Yet, who is Linda, and how did she become the hero of our story? Linda is an artist who has written three books about her travels and she devotes herself to the art of mosaic. And it was the mosaic that brought us together because her mosaic PopDog has become a part of our serios of ‘postcards with a message’. When I asked Linda who she really is, her response sounds like this: “If you ask me who I am, I have to say: I am just Linda. Because while living in Spain – being abroad - you understand how much you dislike being labeled: you're a foreigner, you're an immigrant, a writer, or a politician, or a women's rights activist, or a dog’s rights activist. But I'm Linda. A person who likes many different things. But if you ask me about my art or writing, what summarizes these two passions of mine, is that they both tell stories of me or what I witness”.
|Meet a versatile person, mosaic artist Linda Rinķe (33)|
|2001-2007 Gulbene State Gymnasium|
2007-2010 Riga Stradins University (International relationship)
2012 – up till now: leaving Latvia and life lessons
|Achievements of Linda:|
| Published books:|
Received an award as a mosaic artist:
National Award “Kilogram of Culture” – Culture Place Šķietura
|Linda dreams of:|
|Making cities more colorful. As an example, Linda hopes to one day redo in bright mosaics the old, forgotten houses of the town where she lives in – Valdepeñas . “But my overall biggest dream is to become a crazy mosaic lady, who has her own mosaic garden, which people can come and visit, take a walk and get inspired. I want this garden to be a crazy dreamland. And maybe in the future there could also be a small hotel, where people could stay at. That’s my artistic goal – to have my fantasy world at one location and make it available to others.”|
|Jedidiah Jenkins “To shake the sleeping self”|
|Linda wishes to others:|
|“Start finally enjoying the life! We must learn how to do it! Let’s eat the life with a big spoon. How many years do we have to live? If we want an additional ice cream, let’s eat it! Also, we should love and appreciate our fellow human beings.”|
| Where you can find Linda:|
To Linda her love at first sight of mosaic flourished in New Zealand. However, art and creative manifestations have been close to her heart always: “Since I was a child, I've been very interested in everything visual. It's a fact – I can’t draw. But I love painting, putting different colors and shades together, observing things, and thinking how they would look on a painting.”
The story of Linda coming across mosaic is quite interesting. In New Zealand Linda shared a house with different international travelers and one of them was Mexican girl Minerva. Minerva worked in a restaurant called Casita Miro which was very close to their house, and always would tell Linda how beautiful the place was and would invite her to go and visit it. But for most of the time Linda was working long hours at another restaurant, and only after several months she finally went to visit Minerva’s workplace. Linda remembers: “Minerva stood behind the bar chatting with me and my friend Jānis, but all I could see was this mysterious thing behind her. Through the window I was looking at something magical and I couldn’t really understand what it was. It was love at first sight even if I had absolutely no idea what mosaic even was! In the garden behind Minerva stood a large mosaic wall winding along stairs which lead to a terrace with views of the ocean. And everything was made of broken tile pieces! I couldn’t even apprehend it, I had never seen anything like it! Soon I learned that the girl, who was helping the restaurant owner make the wall, was leaving. Every day I asked Minerva if she had seen her boss. I begged her to tell him about me and that I would be very keen to work for him and learn how to do mosaic. But she never really had a chance to talk to him. And then, on February 25th, one day before my birthday my New Zealand mom Raewyn, my then not-so-much-a-husband but our house’s gardener (Raewyn was playing a matchmaker) Sergio and I, we went to Casita Miro to celebrate my upcoming birthday with a glass of wine. To my luck the restaurant owner Barnett was there, and as it turned out Raewyn knew him! She told him, “Barnett, this is Linda. She's very artistic and talented, why don’t you hire her to help you with the mosaic?” For some reason our conversation led us into the topic of biathlon, and I told that for a small period of time I tried it out. Till this day I don’t know if Barnett was interested in hiring me because he liked the fact that I knew how to shoot, or that I was very interested in art and helping him, but nevertheless, I GOT THE JOB!!! So on February 26th, 2013, on my birthday, I had my first day as a mosaicist. Sure, my first job was to sort by colors the shattered tiles, but with time Barnett trained me and showed me the world of mosaic: I began with grouting and gradually got to the mosaic itself. I completely fell in love with it, while also the restaurant owner began to see potential in me. At the beginning I was working at two places - during the day I was a waitress, but in the evenings or sometimes at nights I would be running to Casita Miro to live the dream and be an artist while creating restaurant’s mosaic garden. And then the magical day came when Barnett asked me to come work for him full time… It was one of the best days ever – the day I became a full-time artist!"
Although the Covid has paused the art world and Linda's intentions, the mosaic is her full-time work. Linda is involved in projects, especially in Latvia. Where can you see her art? One of her most famous works is in Šķieneri (county of Gulbene), a mosaic bus stop called ŠĶIETURA. This place won a National Award - “Kilogram of Culture.” Šķietura also is Linda's entrance to the wider art community, a statement about who she is. This bus stop was her first independent work, in which she herself was responsible for what she was creating. Linda has proved herself in Latvia, and in 2020 she hoped to also introduce herself to the Spanish art scene. But because of the Covid, it all collapsed: “The situation in Spain was truly devastating. The lockdown here lasted for many months and I lost many potential mosaic mural projects. That's why I created little mosaic art pieces such as mirrors and flowerpots which I haven't really started selling yet. There are a couple of my mirrors in Gulbene at the fantastic family of Rubeņi, but for now they are just there... The mosaic has a fierce peculiarity - it's heavy. Even if you sell something cheaply, shipping it is abnormally expensive. So when the Covid passes, I'll go to the art markets here in Spain. But what I like the most of what I do right now, is my PopDog series. I create artworks, they can't really be called paintings as mosaic is not a painting; however they are in a size of a big painting and can be attached to a wall. One day, when I create more of these ‘paintings’, I would like to have an exhibition, with the hope, that people will want my art to enrich the walls of their homes."
The mosaic ‘paintings’ of PopDog created by Linda, which we have on our postcards, carry a message about the dog violence. “Even though my artworks seem happy and playful, there's that deeper message. I wouldn't want people to just look at them and see nothing. I want the colors to attract them to sit down and think and figure out what it is. What could it mean? Why would someone make a mosaic of four similarly looking dogs? Why are they similar to Andy Warhol’s Marylin Monroe’s portraits? So I want people to dig deeper, this is the reason why art is a story telling for me. PopDog ‘portraits’ are not dramatic or depicting violence, they don’t scream at the viewers – “ we have been used, thrown away, and killed!” You look at them and see four nice dogs. And then You are invited to wonder about the story behind those eight sad eyes.
Spain has two most popular dog breeds - podenco (warren hound) and galgo (greyhound), and both breeds have been used in hunting and animal competitions. In Spain, it is still very popular to hunt with dogs, but only approximately 1.6% of all the hunters have a hunting permit. All the remaining percentage is illegal - which means these dogs are not registered or chipped, and their owners can do with them anything they like. Also Spain is the only country in Europe, and maybe even in a world, that still allows races with dogs. In them, galgos chase electric rabbits and if the result is bad, the dog most likely will be shot or banished. Both podencos and galgos, as soon as they get old, injured, or not careful or dutiful enough, are either killed or severely beaten, so they start to fear people, and then thrown out in the middle of nowhere. In dog farms too, they are bred and held under terrible conditions, and if they do not meet certain standards, and are recognized as defected, a sad fate awaits them. There is no exact data available on how many dogs have been hurt, but it is believed that it’s around 50-60 thousand dogs a year that are horribly mistreated. And those are high numbers.
Linda learned about the problem when she got her own podenco, Miro. Her husbands’ parents have a dog Curro in their country home where they mostly go to just maintain the olive trees and work on other rural jobs, the rest of the time the dog is alone. Out of loneliness, Curro one day dug a hole under the fence and escaped. When, in few days, he returned, he was not alone. His companion was very timid, alert, and beautiful. Linda tells: “I remember this moment clearly, I was struck with a beauty - she stood there graciously in the sun. It was the first time I saw this breed - pure Podenco Ibicenco with her tall legs and athletic body, a tail longer than herself and huge pointy ears. As we don’t have such breed in Latvia, I curiously asked Sergio what is this dog. And he said it was a typical Spanish hunting breed. He suggested that she most likely had escaped her owner while chasing a rabbit as podencos have a powerful hunting instinct. Or someone had abandoned her… But Sergio, not being a very dramatic person, didn’t then really tell me the sad truth about this possible abandonment. Also, it was obvious that at the time she was having her period and since our dog had been together with her, most likely she will soon have puppies, and we couldn't just leave her there. She was so scared and didn't want to come to us! Gradually we somehow got her to enter our backyard and two months later, we had 9 half-breed puppies. One of the puppies is our Miro”. That's how Linda started to be more interested in the problem of these breeds. On the internet she also found a Spanish documentary, “Yo Galgo” (find out more about the documentary here), which showed the harsh reality. Linda could no longer be indifferent, and she created mosaic ‘painting’ series PopDog. Part of the proceeds from selling PopDog T-shirts, sweaters and shopping bags are donated to the local organization, which takes in abandoned dogs and finds them new homes.
Linda speaks about the moment, when she realized that PopDog had to be created: “It was two years ago, when everything was still very active in my mosaic world. I had made Šķietura, and I was about to go to Latvia to make the Nature’s Guestroom in Stāķi (county of Gulbene). I was not worried about getting new projects, so I decided to spend two weeks simply educating myself. I began an online course of Modern Art where they taught us about existing masterpieces, their story, techniques used by the artists, etc. And one of the stories was about Andy Warhol and how he changed the world of art. In this course they looked in depth at the famous portraits of Marilyn Monroe. I found out that Warhol's message was that Marilyn was the world's most beautiful woman, everybody adored her and talked about her. But nobody paid attention to the reality - the fact that she had a depression, drug addiction and she was deeply unhappy. Everyone was just looking at her external happiness, and in Warhol’s mind that was the POP culture. In Spain these dogs are, in some ways, in the pop culture. If you have a hunting magazine, they will be on the cover. People on the streets love podencos and galgos, they always look back or give compliments, but never really talk about the reality and their mistreatment. So during the course, as a word play of Warhol’s role in creation of Pop Art, my idea of PopDog was born. At the moment I only have my colorful Miro as a Pop Podenco and a hipster galgo with a stylish tie in calmer colors as a Pop Galgo. I plan to continue these PopDog series with depicting famous Instagram dogs. I want to keep talking about celebrities, but this time - in the dog world.”
The question arises, why people treat their animals like this. Linda is convinced it is an education issue and a reflection of past experiences: “In the past, especially here in Spain, there was a belief, which still reigns among older people, that animals are objects. IT. Not she or he, but IT. In Latvia, we were occupied by the USSR and therefore in some cases we have lagged behind the rest of the world, but for example in Spain they had a civil war. Apart from many other problems, during this war a lot of people starved and couldn’t go to school. For example, my husband's grandparents, who are no longer alive, could not properly write or fluently read. Many people were left without the education and lived with an emphasis on SURVIVAL. I have heard stories that some people even had to eat cats because they had nothing else to eat! Even in the harsh times of the USSR, I haven’t heard such stories of eating pets. At least not from the perspective of my grandparents’ memories. And so, while the generational shift is taking place, unfortunately, I still see the notion that for some Spaniards an animal is simply an object they own. Like having a car. When you buy a car, you like it, but when the car breaks, and you have to invest too much money to repair it, it’s easier to just replace it. At best case scenario, the old car is sold, the worst-case scenario – you give it away as a scrap. And exactly the same happens to animals. The animal serves you. And when it is not able to serve no more… bye."
Linda believes that art can solve social problems which, through art, can be talked about and popularized. Art can be used as a way of education where you make people think, get them interested into those topics. While Linda is speaking, you can feel that art of mosaic has become a true part of her. Also an inner fire can be seen when she tells you about PopDog series and these social problems. Now our postcards with the PopDog will travel around the world and will carry their message that a deeply sad story may be lurking behind the brilliance of popularity.
Dear people, let's take care of the lives around us!
In a our blog, we'll share our business experience as a social entrepreneur. We will discuss integration - by introducing with people who inspire others. As well as writtting regarding things that help people to see a little different world and processes which makes connections between people.
Entries of the blog:
Every day: things, processes and events about which we do not wonder, but which is the part of daily lives of people who lives by our side. Stories with a taste of reality.
Inspire - power stories about people and places, which show how to find a light in the dark moments of life. These stories serves as examples that life can be lived differently.
Socially active - stories of co-responsibility, mutual relationship and belonging.