According to an Artifice.com article, “Cats and the Artists They Keep”, artwork featuring domestic felines grace the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art Facebook page. This occurs of course, on Saturday, or rather “Caturday” as it’s dubbed by cat enthusiasts around the globe. What is it about cats and art? Not just artists but creative people in general just love cats! How often does one visit an artist’s studio or writer’s loft and find a sleek minx of a kitty slinking around providing inspiration as a silent muse or an erratic companion enabling distraction with their finicky demands? Most of the creative folks I know have at least one kitty at the helm, and although it’s a given that the artist’s work is important, daily life does revolve around pleasing their furry, four-legged friend(s).
Cats have intrigued artists since the beginning of time. From ancient scrolls depicting cats as revered gods, to scary Halloween images of a menacing black cat with its back up on its haunches ready to attack, to cutesy tchotchke in gift shops, as a society we can’t get enough of cat art. Cat art is found on the cover of notebooks, embossed on coffee mugs, plates, towels, even shower curtains and mailboxes. That is not to say; however, that cat art is only embraced by those whom we dub as “crazy cat ladies”.
Many serious art collectors have artwork featuring cats on proud display. How many lovely homes or cafés can one visit and encounter a print of the 1896 whimsical creation Le Chat Noir, by Théophile Steinlen. The cats depicted in art are not always just sitting pretty. Pablo Picasso’s 1939 piece “Cat Devouring a Bird” (which I will not link a photo of as a courtesy to bird lovers) has been described as riveting, if not graphic, but was just a depiction of felines doing what they do, and why they have super sharp teeth and claws. To truly love a cat is to embrace their sometimes-wild side. Those who follow the Pagan religions, still venerate Bastet, better known as simply “Bast” an Egyptian Goddess as evidence by the many pendants and other jewelry emblazoned with her regal image of a feline. She is the daughter of the Sun God, Ra. For anyone who has ever watched their pet kitty stretching on a sunny windowsill, this legend seems to have merit. Cats can be cruel, and they can be kind, highly intelligent and crafty and always a bit mysterious. Unpredictable, untamable, and loyal when they feel like it. That is why they fascinate us so. Famous artist who adored cats include Salvador Dali and Georgia O’ Keefe and even the enigmatic Andy Warhol!
Cats have even inspired art in the form of poetry, take T.S. Eliot’s, “Old Possums Book of Practical Cats”, which inspired a long running Broadway play, which evolved into a feature film. So, with all these cats and artists in one space, what’s to say the cat can’t go “paws on” with the artist’s creation from time to time? Cats will never do anything they don’t truly enjoy, so no one has to worry about cats being forced into oppressive feline labor. They will participate or not according to their fancy. Unlike dogs, who deem emotional satisfaction from being of service to humans, cats well frankly, couldn’t care less if someone wants them to take a swipe at a rotation pot on a wheel. Being fully hedonistic, it’s a sure bet that a cat performing a task is just doing as he or she pleases. The fact that we spectators find a video of a pottery making kitty totally endearing is besides the point from their perspective.
In the case of one particular pampered curious cat named Mike, he wasn’t content to just watch his owner, Jim spin a pottery object on a wheel, Mike decided to give Jim a helping hand. The hilarious video featured on House Beautiful, shows how the super talented kitty deftly used his claws to add texture to the design. What is most impressive is that the cat seamlessly fell into the rhythm and the direction of the fast turning wheel without skipping a beat. Instead of getting upset with Mike for interrupting his concentration, the folks at Van Hallow Pottery in Rogers, Arkansas, just let the cat do his thing on the wheel and create some exquisite
“pawtorry”. Many workplaces that are pet friendly find that having four legged dependents around actually can boost productivity and stimulate creativity. Unless someone in the workspace is allergic, why not have a cute kitty or two running around. Felines, just like dogs, can sleep for hours, but can also get easily bored when left alone. Mischief is a cat’s middle name (and also an apt first name in many cases). Pet parents would not doubt spend more time at the office if they weren’t worried about rushing home greet a distraught cat who decided to shred the curtains out of boredom. Cats are a value-added ingredient to many a workspace. Such was the case here with Mike at this pottery studio, no doubt.
Now, pottery depicting cats is easy to find, and there are even studios that will memorialize your pet’s hair by mixing it into a painting or a piece of pottery, but just imagine the market for pottery or other artwork actually made by cats! A studio featuring work by cats would be awesome to visit. The patron could chose the medium (a paw painting, or cat crafted ceramic piece) and the feline artist to do the work (or bring their own cat for a one of a kind experience better than a toy with bells and fake feathers on a stick. Cats love to swipe at any motion and it wouldn’t be long till many cat’s got in the grove of creating their own unique masterpiece. That would be something to see. Maybe Jim and his cat Mike are onto something?