WHEN she first went to Nepal in 1986, Michelle Page was struck by images of dogs hand-painted on metal signs hung above shops. "They were beautiful, personable dogs," she says. "Not generic, but very specific different breeds and sizes, as if the artists actually knew the dogs they were painting."
Some artworks were naive in style, others very detailed, Page says. She soon realized that artisans in Nepal were painting all sorts of animals on those 1-foot-square metal sheets. Signs with a pig, goat or chicken denoted the butcher shop within.
But the dogs were the most compelling and unforgettable. Some were the equivalent of "beware of dog" signs one might see here. Others translated into something more benign: "Brilliant dog in here."
Page, an assistant film editor who lives in Santa Monica, returned to Nepal repeatedly. Four years ago, she noticed that the dog signs she loved so much were being replaced by more contemporary and commercial versions: computer-generated images mass-produced on vinyl. She started collecting the old "danger dog" signs she found in shops. Then she sought out the studios where artisans created the signs, as well as banners and license plates. In June she traveled to Nepal again and returned with 100 dog signs commissioned from artisans whose work she particularly liked.