Putting the pieces together led to Unity artist's 'Safari Selfie' puzzle
Artist Kathy Rafferty of Unity was hoping that a painting she did in 2017 would be chosen for the Greater Latrobe School District's Art Conservation Trust/Special Art Collection.
It made the top five in voting by both students and audience members at that year's gala, but it didn't make the final cut.
Maybe that was a blessing in disguise, because now the painting is getting national attention in the form of a 326-piece wooden puzzle.
“Safari Selfie” includes a group of African animals that one wouldn't expect to find hanging out together, including big cats and others that would normally be their prey.
Rafferty says she first intended to do a close-up painting of one animal's head, but decided to expand on that idea.
“I said, ‘I've seen that so many times,' so I decided to do a group and the title popped into my head,” she says. “It's an unlikely group of friends who took a selfie, because it's the age of the selfie.”
She has a friend, jewelry artist Sharon Shepard of Saltsburg, to thank for the larger audience the painting is now reaching.
Shepard happened to stop in the Joyful Nook Gallery last year when she was in Durango, Colo. The gallery manufactures handcrafted, wooden puzzles using original works by local artists.
Even though Joyful Nook specializes in local artworks, Shepard thought “Safari Selfie” might interest the owners and encouraged Rafferty to contact them.
Long story short: “They really loved it,” Rafferty says. “They wanted to do it and sell it in their online shop.”
Rafferty says she doesn't know how many “Safari Selfie” puzzles have sold, but it's been popular enough that it's now being sold not only online but also in the Durango gallery, and it's also been adapted into a children's version.
“I was just so tickled, because it does cost $175,” she says. “I've heard that requests for it have come in from all over the country.”
Rafferty says she's also pleased at the quality of the product.
“If you look at the back of it, it's like a work of art on its own,” she says. “What's really neat is that they have it cut out in animal shapes, and there's a tree in the middle with a camera in it. It matches the theme of the painting.”
That's a regular feature of Joyful Nook puzzles, according to the website, which says, “Our puzzle pieces are uniquely designed to match the theme of the puzzle image. We call them ‘Gozintas' because our darling pieces ‘goes into' other pieces creating a stunning puzzle masterpiece.”
The original painting now resides with Rafferty's daughter, Erin Rafferty, a pediatrician in Norfolk, Va.
“She wanted it desperately, so I told her if the school didn't take it, she could have it,” Rafferty says.
Rafferty gave a giclee print of the painting to the Latrobe Art Center for its 2017 An Evening in the Neighborhood art auction.
“Because we liked it so much, we made it the theme of the auction, and that went over very well,” says center interim director Joe Bellack. “It's so interesting how this thing has evolved — from the little Latrobe Art Center, now it's getting recognition nationally.”
To view the “Safari Selfie” puzzle, visit jngpuzzles.com.
Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5750, email@example.com or via Twitter @shirley_trib.