|Barbara M de Varona with Pikito nesting in her hair .. and note the painting by Diana Contreras in the background |
(Photo Courtesy of Barbara M de Varona)
Pigs can't talk, of course, so Bacon's caretaker, Dr. Len Lucero, answered questions on the pig's behalf.
Lucero, a veterinarian, met Bacon when a young woman brought the newborn pig, who was born without the use of his hind legs, to him for possible euthanization. Instead, Lucero adopted the piglet and built a wheeled contraption to help him get around. Today, the pig has a modified dog wheelchair, his own web site, multiple very popular videos, T-shirts bearing his likeness and a Facebook page that's racked up more than 70,000 likes.
Among the likers is de Varona, an animal lover who currently resides with six cats, two dogs, a mourning dove and her supportive husband Gabriel. After reading the story and watching Lucero's video of the pink wonder on wheels, de Varona was touched by the veterinarian's devotion and quite smitten with the pig. "My heart sank and swooned at once," she notes. "I had to know more."
|Barbara M de Varona, Chris P. Bacon and Len Lucero (Courtesy of BMD)|
"You have to know I see a parallel in Len embracing this arguably damaged little creature and my own acceptance (even encouragement) of our own human 'cracks,'" de Varona says. "Not to mention, I could not resist the Egg-and-Bacon connection."
So in April, de Varona and her husband Gabriel traveled to Lucero's farm in Sumterville, FL, to meet Mr. Bacon. "I kissed that little snout like 80 times," the artist notes. Once she arrived back in Miami, the artist set to work on a small series of recently completed mixed-media works depicting Chris P. Bacon.
|Chris P. Bacon and friends (Courtesy of Barbara M de Varona)|
Barbara M de Varona: You contact someone on Facebook via a fan page already followed by 49,000, and the best you can hope is that a year from now you might get a "Thanks!" but little more. Here is where my interest and fascination and desire to celebrate this amazing duo took over. Len replied the same day, and so graciously and openly, it was really something. I immediately thought, "This isn't just a cute piggy who got very lucky. There's an amazing person at the core of all this."
Arterpillar: Did you just hop into the car by yourself and go there, or was it a group outing?
Barbara M de Varona: I like to bundle =-) So I took my trip to see Chris P. as a chance to visit with family in Orlando too. Gabriel came with me and he was just as excited to meet Chris P. as I was (Okay, maybe he wasn't at first, but he certainly was glad after!)
|De Varona meets her first horse (Courtesy of Barbara M de Varona)|
Barbara M de Varona: Len has to be the warmest stranger I ever met. He showed us around the farm first, telling us a little about his practice and introducing us to furry friends.
We met rescued horses who get to live out their days in comfort. He showed us to the barn where I got to see a days-old goat; so tender ... and I got to meet his champion stallion. I never met a horse before. It was epic.
After some chatting and a little more walking about, he invited us into his home. Hanging out among blankies and toys, inside a playpen in the living room area adjacent to the kitchen, was Chris P. Bacon.
|Barbara M de Varona meets Chris P. Bacon (Courtesy of Barbara M de Varona)|
Barbara M de Varona: YES! (It won't be the last :@) ) Cold and prickly bit o' heaven <3
Arterpillar: What can you tell me about Len and his pig based on your trip there?
Barbara M de Varona: They're a beautiful pair. I think each is so amazingly lucky to be in the other's life. Len is such a tender father to Chris P. You can see in this man's eyes how much love and compassion he has for his boy. You can see his steadfast resolve that not only was giving Chris P. a chance at life the right choice, it was the only choice.
Arterpillar: What kind of life does the pig have? What does he do?
Barbara M de Varona: He lives a charmed life! Make no mistakes, though ... He earns his keep. He travels to work with Dad daily. He goes on doctor visits to client homes and has quite the social life all his own -- traveling to events and visiting with fans on a regular basis.
Arterpillar: So he has an easy time getting around on wheels?
Barbara M de Varona: He gets around expertly. Fastest pig on wheels, haven't you heard?
Arterpillar: Does he just have the wheels on sometimes?
Barbara M de Varona: Fact is, Len makes sure that Chris P. gets plenty of off-wheels time, to ensure that he stays capable and strong.
|"Grape Expectations" de Varona's portrait of the grape-loving pig (Courtesy of the artist)|
Barbara M de Varona: I took all the pictures my short visit would afford me. Truth be known, I spent most of my time kissing him!
Arterpillar: How old is Chris P. and what sort of surgery did he recently have?
Barbara M de Varona: Chris P. is five, make that six, months old. At five months old, he underwent hernia surgery. The surgery repaired two enlarged inguinal canals allowing for hernia.
Arterpillar: Do you have special plans for these works? Will there be an exhibition?
Barbara M de Varona: The drawings are my gift to the Lucero family. At first they were intended as a donation to their efforts. Len and Chris P. travel, making special visits to disabled children and their families who can really use a smile. But my heart wants the Lucero family to own these original works. Len, in turn, has expressed how very much he would want to keep them in the family and pass them on to his children as a symbol of this very special time in their lives. We reconciled the two with a limited print of each original work, and those will be auctioned for charity. Len is thinking Disabled American Veterans, Muscular Dystrophy or something along that line.
|"Piggy Back Doinky," de Varona's portrait of Lucero, Chris P. Bacon and Bacon's friend Doinky (Courtesy of the artist)|
Barbara M de Varona: Len has a needlepoint portrait of Chris P. made by a school teacher and fan. I deliver my portraits to him in October. Chris P. receives gifts all the time. Recently, a fan sent Chris P. an adorable likeness of him and his friend Doinky as a knitted plush toy.
Arterpillar: You mentioned how you see a parallel between Chris P. Bacon, who you describe as an "arguably damaged little creature" and your acceptance of our human cracks? Can you tell me a little more about that connection?
Barbara M de Varona: People will most often reject what they perceive as damaged. It's a simple fact. Survival of the fittest, I guess... I don't know. It's ingrained in us, though, to ward off what will distract from our own interests.
I used to think that damage was somehow definite; a defined thing that could not be argued. But it isn't. It really isn't. Damage is subjective. Len's choices taught me that from 300 miles away. There's nothing 'wrong' here, he thought. He saw a challenge to overcome and little else. I think the more we can embrace our perceived damage, flip it on its ear and find the way to work with it -- not around it, through it -- the better we become at life ... the better we are to ourselves, for ourselves, and each other.
|"Two Champions," mixed media on paper, Barbara M de Varona (Courtesy of Barbara M de Varona)|
Barbara M de Varona: There seem to be pivotal points in life, from which the choices we make define our futures. There's definitely something to be learned from a man who chose to dedicate time, resources and himself to what many might logically conclude to be a lost cause. Chris P. was born with a deformity that he would not have overcome any other way... Len chose to find the way. Today they share an amazing bond, have over 70,000 fans and supporters on Facebook, and just signed a book deal with Hay House Publishing. #justsaying
De Varona plans another road trip this fall to deliver the works to Lucero and his family. You can check out more of her work at BMDart.com.
For info on more South Florida art news and events, visit Arterpillar.