Stephen L. “Steve” Huneck

Stephen L. “Steve” Huneck

Massachusetts, USA
Death 8 Jan 2010 (aged 61)
Saint Johnsbury, Caledonia County, Vermont, USA
Burial Cremated, Ashes scattered
Memorial ID 132474015 View Source
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Artist who studied with painter Barbara Hall Fiske at Quarry Hill Creative Center in Rochester, VT. Later became carver and made beautiful, whimsical Dog Chapel in St. Johnsbury, VT. Wrote books about dogs (which he illustrated) called "Sally Goes to the Beach" and other such books. Very popular. Art is in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. Was married to wife Gwen for some years. He committed suicide outside his therapist's office. His wife also killed herself some years later.Beloved Artist Stephen Huneck Dies
Economy, depression may have fueled suicide
Kelly Modzelewski | 10 Jan 2010

Stephen Huneck created The Dog Chapel as a place to remember lost companion animals.

"The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man's." -- Mark Twain

I have a rug by Stephen Huneck in my bedroom. It shows one dog pulling a boat, with other dogs inside it, through the water. It says "Friendship" and indicates that we can pull each other through anything.

Unfortunately, no one could pull Huneck through his recent tragedy. Sadly for all in the dog world, and non-dog people, too, celebrated dog artist Huneck, 60, of St. Johnsbury, Vt., took his own life early on Jan. 8. He had apparently been battling with depression for a long time. His wife cites the downfall in the economy as a factor, including the fact that Huneck had to let approximately half his employees go recently. It made the tragedy even worse in that he shot himself outside his psychiatrist's office, just a few feet from possible help.

Huneck's talent was to depict everyday concepts using dogs as the players. His prints, rugs, notecards and furniture were sometimes straightforward, sometimes naughty and always witty. He warmed our hearts with prints such as "A Day at the Beach" and tickled us with those such as "Menage Trois." He had a great understanding of modern culture and of the dog mind, too.

Huneck was no stranger to the concept of death, opening the acclaimed Dog Chapel for people to come remember their pets who had passed. Huneck also credited his choice to pursue his artwork to a near-death-experience years ago.

I feel certain Huneck has gone to his concept of Dog Heaven, "Welcome all creeds, all breeds. No dogmas allowed," as it says at the Dog Chapel. He must also wear the golden wings he so often depicted in his prints. And now he has inspiration for more "heavenly" subjects, such as dogs chasing a dogcatcher 'round the Elysian Fields.
I believe that Stephen Huneck will be remembered as a fabulous dog lover and canine folk artist. His loss is felt throughout the dog-loving community.

This was written in The Bark magazine:

Before becoming an artist, Huneck was an antiques dealer. He was discovered in 1984 when he found a man pulling one of his carvings, an angel, out of the back of Huneck's pick-up truck. The man asked how much he wanted for the angel. Not intending to sell it and believing that the man wouldn't pay such a high price, Huneck told him that he wanted $1,000. The man revealed himself to be an art dealer from Manhattan and paid Huneck the money. Pieces of Huneck's artwork are in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution, the Dog Museum of America and the American Kennel Club. Huneck has been commissioned for works from celebrities and politicians including Sandra Bernhard, Dr. Phil McGraw, and US Senator Patrick Leahy. Much of the basswood, cherry, maple and pine he works with comes from his farm.

In 1997, after a near death experience with acute respiratory distress syndrome, Huneck started work building a chapel dedicated to dogs. The Dog Chapel, which took three years to complete, is situated next to his studio in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. In addition to standard human sized doors, the chapel also has a dog door, carved wooden dogs lining the pews and dog themed stained glass windows. The inner walls are covered with remembrance notes and pictures of visitors deceased canine pets.

Each year, Huneck and his wife had held a gathering known as Dog Fest. The event was held at his Dog Mountain studio. People brought their dogs for a day of relaxation. Contests were held for categories such as loudest bark, biggest/smallest dog, best dog kiss, etc. The dogs were let off their leashes and allowed to run free and play with other dogs.

Huneck was despondent over having to lay off employees in January 2010 and had been dealing with depression. On January 7, 2010, after driving to a psychiatrist's office in Littleton, New Hampshire, Huneck shot himself and died. He was 60 years old.

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