It was a typical trip to Nepal for A. Michelle Page.
The Santa Monica resident planned to collect portraits of dogs, cats, horses and rabbits by local artists and commission more Nepalese artwork that she would sell to American pet lovers.
She and her husband, Daniel Adams, both of whom arrived last week, were scheduled to stay in the capital of Katmandu near the Boudhanath burial mound that is the Himalayan city’s most famous landmark.
On Saturday, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck, killing thousands. Page and Adams have not been heard from since. Friends who have been frantically reaching out to them have been met with silence.
“I’m hoping they are too busy attending to others that they haven’t had the time to check in with friends,” said Susan Klos, a longtime friend.
Page, 58, is a former film editor whose projects included the Spider-Man trilogy and Robert Altman’s “The Player,” according to her website.
She approaches animal portraiture with missionary zeal, traveling to Nepal twice a year to connect the First World and the Third World. Through her Danger Dogs art import business, animal devotees with hundreds of dollars to spare can buy work by Nepalese sign painters whose traditional art form is endangered.
The portraits, hand-painted on metal sheets, are based on traditional “Beware of dog” signs and often contain warnings about canine ferocity in either English or Nepalese script — hence the name Danger Dogs. Customers can buy pre-made portraits or commission renderings of their own Buster, Fifi or Scout.
“Your pet’s portrait can be rendered in the naive, almost primitive style that results in a ‘doggie mug shot,’ or it can have a playful smile, a wary and growling demeanor, or a dangerous gleam in its eye,” Page wrote on her website.
In Nepal, the traditional signs are being replaced by mass-produced digital signs. A custom portrait costs $250, and Page pays the artists “fair-trade wages.” More than 40 Nepalese artists, each with a photo and bio page, are featured on her website.
The portraits of pampered pets have gained a following in Southern California. Museum stores sell them. Art world professionals such as John Walsh, former director of the J. Paul Getty Museum, and Christine Knoke, chief curator at the Mingei International Museum in San Diego, have collected them.
A rabbit-themed exhibition called “BunnyMania” recently featured portraits by Page’s artists in two downtown art galleries.
Delia Cabral, director of DCA Fine Arts and the curator of “BunnyMania,” said Page inspires Nepalese artists to make “wonderful, whimsical” pieces “by adding her own American wit and sensibility.”
Amy Coane, retail curator at the Santa Monica Museum of Art, has tried several times to reach Page since the earthquake but has not received a response. The two became friends over the years, with Page bringing back new animal paintings as well as portraits of other subjects. Renderings of President Obama by Nepalese artists were very popular and sold out, Coane said.
“She has been a very important part of the Santa Monica Museum family,” Coane said in a statement. “We love her. We love her work. We know how much she loved Nepal and we hope she comes home safely.”
At the Craft and Folk Art Museum store, Yuko Makuuchi described a tall woman in a cowboy hat and high heels who would help hang the heavy metal animal portraits from the ceiling.
“She’s really nice and sweet and passionate in supporting the artists,” said Makuuchi, who manages the store. “I hope she’s OK. That would be devastating.”
On social media, Page appeared to be enamored of Nepal, tagging posts of stunning Himalayan scenery with “Why I Love Nepal.”
In a Facebook post dated April 20, she wrote of a Yak Blood Festival, where the couple tasted yak dumplings: “The pop up restaurants serve yak momos, a true delicacy. And raxi, a saki like drink they bill as ‘local wine’ on the menus. Firewater is what I call it!”
Klos, however, said she believes those photos could be from previous trips.
Adams, 65, a former cameraman, typically joined Page on her spring trip to Nepal, whereas her friend Klos would go in the fall.
On a photo of Adams standing on a mountainside holding a red flower, a friend posted: "Hey. You guys ok? We know about the earthquake."
So far, there has been no response.