The Rip Van Wrinkler, XXIII, Issue 3, August 2019

Page 10 < previous page > <next page>


by Marcia Woodard, originally published in the AKC GAZETTE "Breed Columns" in 2005 and The Rip Van Wrinkler, Volume XVI, Issue 2, May 2012

“Drawing a Basenji is like drawing the nude; after all, Basenjis are naked dogs. The breed is articulated like the [human] figure model and poses just as well,” said Susan Kamen Marsicano from her studio in Woodstock, NY. After this observation, I couldn’t help but compare my Basenjis’ languorous poses on the living room couch to famous paintings of nude figures I’d seen on trips to Europe. 

Kamen Marsicano’s Basenji painting Dreamers won Dog Writers of America Awards in both the Illustration and Poster categories in 1999.


I became aware of her art through the newsletter, the Rip Van Wrinkler, she edits for her local club {the Rip Van Wrinkle Basenji Club}.

Kamen Marsicano began drawing at 2; at 5, her first-grade teacher informed her parents she was a painter.  “Around that time I started dragging stray dogs home.”  But her mother never let her keep the strays because they aggravated her sibling’s asthma. She entered the Cooper Union School of Art in 1959. Cooper Union admits only sixty students a year, all on scholarship. Kamen Marsicano compared the application process to the movie Fame: “we sat in the Great Hall, where Lincoln spoke, and we had to draw and sculpt right there.” She received the highest score on the entrance exam.  The day after she entered school, Kamen Marsicano went to the ASPCA and got her first dog, Apu. Several years later she discovered Apu was 1/4 Basenji. {see - The Story of Apu}

Apu posed with the nudes in art classes: “We had a show of artists’ drawings of the model, with Apu alongside in the same pose.”

Figure drawing, '70s

Apu traveled to Italy when Kamen Marsicano received a Fulbright fellowship and renewal to study in Florence, and they returned to Italy together for a subsequent solo exhibition in Rome.  “She crossed the ocean in ocean liners, stayed on the bridge with the captain, and ate lobster.  She went to the nude beaches with me in Cadaques.”

When Apu died, in 1973, Kamen Marsicano acquired the Basenji bitch, Bomabwa Blushing Bride. In 1975, she named her kennel Apu Basenjis.  Kamen Marsicano’s Christmas cards, which she has drawn since the age of 8, are now illustrated with Basenjis. A card in which she added Basenjis to her husband Nicholas Marsicano’s original painting intrigued me.

In 1984, Susan married Marsicano, who was the spirit of Cooper Union. She often modeled for Marsicano’s abstract nude drawings: “I’m the one with the long toes.”  I asked if any other paintings by Nicholas had inspired her to add Basenjis.  “I used a drawing he did, from a series in '48, of women windswept in NYC holding onto their hats and umbrellas. I used the poem from Rimbaud, "Aprés Le Deluge," as my greeting.  I sat dogs on shoulders, tightrope walked them, and even put my goldfish in puddles.  Nic loved it.”

 Kamen Marsicano sells posters of her paintings, and the proceeds benefit the Basenji Health Endowment and the American Cancer Society.  One of my favorites is her 1979 drawing of the WTC Towers with Basenjis walking a tightrope between the two towers. The scene was prompted by Philippe Petit’s tightrope stunt in 1974 that brought worldwide attention to the towers.

I recommend a visit to Kamen Marsicano’s website:, where you’ll find evidence that “mixing basenji colors has become as natural to{her} as mixing flesh colors.”

"Warm Toes" ~ 1999, S K-M & Tamara Allen