What do our pets do when we’re gone? Are they flexing their creative capacities on an Etch A Sketch, sneaking forbidden treats, or indulging in their secret vices? These are the questions Alison Friend poses in her first U.S. solo exhibition at Harman Projects, While You Were Out… Taking stylistic inspiration from the Old European Masters, Friend’s new series of oil paintings capture the clandestine lives of our precocious and loveable cats and dogs who smoke, drink, read, and eat when we’re not looking.

The serious posture the painted animals assume is droll and familiar, but these goofy sitters are also navigating their relationship to human challenges. An orange cat wears a trucker hat that reads “Living My Best Lives,” a reference to the finite nine chances a cat has at living; a little black dog with a white belly holds a red toy phone up to her ear, growing impatient as she’s been on hold for over an hour; a cat and a dog sit together on a red couch with cucumbers over their eyes and hot towels behind their necks, unwinding from an unbelievably stressful week of barking at the window or meowing for food. “I’m trying to depict funny contemporary characters with their modern relatable vices,” the artist remarks. “They are the complete opposite to the often dour porcelain-skinned human subjects in the portraits of the Old Masters, but I want that traditional feel for my paintings.” While these narrative situations are amusing, far-fetched imaginings, they also offer insight into just how much we see ourselves in our pets.

A testament to her love of animals, Friend is auctioning the painting Pizza Lover through the Greater Giving Charities online platform. All proceeds from this auction will benefit Paws for Life K9 Rescue, a non-profit animal rescue and rehabilitation center in Los Angeles. Bidding will begin on the platform on Wednesday, March 6th at 12 pm PT and close on Friday, March 8th at 11:59 pm PT.

While You Were Out… opens with a reception on Saturday, March 9th at 2754 S La Cienega Blvd Suite B, Los Angeles.