Jaguars of Steel

What do you get when you combine steel, sculpture and jaguars? Beautiful art that captures the spirit of the America’s largest and most endangered big cat.

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The Spirit of Macho B – Image Patricia Frederick on Facebook

Arizona based Equine Veterinarian Patricia Frederick, who retired to become a sculptor, creates an array of creatures out of steel. Although she initially concentrated on her first love horses, her extensive work includes the likes of dogs, cats, wolves and jaguars. She began her sculpting career working in clay then moved on to ceramics while obtaining a degree in painting. Later she took lessons in bronze sculpturing, and fell in love with it, but soon found that steel was more affordable and available making it her favorite material to work with.

Patricia tells the Tuscon Weekly that she doesn’t do “extreme realism, but rather takes a contemporary approach to capture “mobility and motion”. She starts by sketching the contours of the bones followed by an all-steel armature essentially “drawing with steel”.

The life-size sculptures completed in January capture the power, strength and agility of two very well-known jaguars Macho B and Corazón commemorating their lives as well as bringing much-needed attention to the plight of this magnificent cat that is literally hanging on by a thread. Macho B, who lived in Southern Arizona, was estimated to be about 16 years of age when he died surrounded in controversy. Until 1996 no jaguar to be seen in the U.S. and that was the first time Macho B, along with another unknown male were documented along the border.

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Macho B – Patricia Frederick- Image Granada Gallery

In 2009 Macho B had been caught in a snare set by researchers hoping to collar him, however things went very bad and he suffered greatly in a panicked attempt to escape. After 12 days he was found alive and recaptured but then “euthanized based on a diagnosis of kidney failure”. The situation read like a crime drama and The Arizona Republic reported that Macho B died from being mishandled and because he had become a victim and pawn “in a web of intrigue involving environmental politics, border security, greed and scientific egos.”

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Corazón – Image Patricia Frederick

Corazón, named for the distinguishing heart shape mark on her left shoulder, lived in Sonora, Mexico, in the Northern Jaguar Reserve 125 miles south of the U.S.-Mexico border. She was poisoned and her body burned on a private ranch. Researchers found that the tracking collar she wore was also destroyed, she was about 8 years old at the time of her death, and had a cub that would not have been able to survive without her. While killing a jaguar is illegal and Mexican law protects them, it does not stop the killing and no one has been prosecuted for the death of Corazón or any other jaguar. She had first been seen in 2006 as a young animal would be photographed on camera traps 30 times during the next five years becoming an icon to those seeking to expand conservation effort.

Patricia’s work is not only beautiful it has a distinct purpose each piece with an individual story to tell. They are meant to draw the viewer’s eye and attention, encouraging people to think about the highly endangered big cat and the adversity they face from habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching, agriculture, persecution, misconceptions and finally border walls. The jaguars of steel will endure, but the real animal will not if the species does not get the support and protection they need.

Both sculptures can be seen on tour which goes through 2017 and, if you would love to have one to display at home either indoors or outdoors, they are up for sale with all proceeds from these unique pieces being donated to both Sky Island Alliance and the Northern Jaguar Project.

For more information and to help support jaguar conservation efforts or make a donation please visit either Sky Island Alliance or the Northern Jaguar Project.

The Lions of London

The Tower of London is known for its rich and rather dark history having been a royal palace, prison, fortress, place for executions and at one time a zoo housing a menagerie of animals including leopards, a polar bear, elephant, monkeys, zebra, ostrich and lions, most of which were given as ‘gifts’ from foreign countries to the monarchy. In 1937 two very well-preserved lion skulls were excavated from the Towers moat and later confirmed, through genetic testing, to be the now extinct pure Barbary lions. Interestingly the skulls were carbon dated back to between “1420 and 1480 for one, and between 1280 and 1385 for the other, making it the oldest lion found in the UK since the extinction of wild cave lions during the last ice age.” Lions being symbols of nobility and strength of the monarchy did not prevent them from mistreatment, and the skulls revealed evidence that they suffered from nutritional and physical stress which would have been in addition to the stress caused from their initial capture, transport to the zoo and a life in captivity.

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The Royal Menagerie zoo lasted more than 600 years: An illustratation of how the zoo within the Tower looked in 1816Daily Mail online

Visitors were allowed to view the animals and apparently during the 18th century the price of admission was “three half-pence, or the supply of a cat or dog to be fed to the lions.”  The collection of animals continued to grow and expand in species until it was realized that the Tower was no place to keep them. Suffice it to say the attitude towards captive animals, and animals in general was not very good, but as people’s views of animals in captivity started to change most of them, except for those in the private collection of Keeper Alfred Cops which were later re-homed in 1835 after a series of accidents, were sent to the Zoological Society of London in Regent Park in 1831 and early 1832 to establish the London Zoo. The Tower’s zoo was officially closed in 1835.

By current standards the conditions these animals were kept in must have been appalling or close to what we see in some of the modern worlds worst zoos. Thankfully the only remaining animals on the Tower grounds today are those made of galvanized wire.

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Tower of London: The 3 Lions  sculpture is located on the site of the original Lion Tower

To celebrate the history of the Royal Menagerie, contemporary animal sculptor, and a member of the Society of Wildlife Artists (UK) and a signature member of the Society of Animal Artists (USA), Kendra Haste was commissioned to create life-size replicas of the wild creatures that were once held at the Tower.

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“Royal Beasts” exhibit include lions, baboons, a polar bear and elephant – Image – Kendra Haste

These amazing and incredible life-like sculptures were created by using layers of galvanized wire, twisted and even painted to produce the results which give a sense of “a living, breathing subject in a static 3-D form.” The result can be seen in these photos, in person one can easily imagine them coming to life a haunting tribute to those creatures, victims of wildlife trafficking, who were imprisoned and perished at the Tower.

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Image – Kendra Haste

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Image – Kendra Haste

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Image – Kendra Haste

Currently on display until 2021, this incredible exhibit is a must see if you live, or will be in London, so be sure to check it out if you have the chance.

The One-of-a-Kind Cat Book

The-One-of-a Kind Cat Book by Ciye Cho, is 127 pages of cat stories brought to life with 50+ illustrations. While it seems to be geared towards the Young Adult (YA) market, once I finished reading it, I could easily see adults of all ages enjoying the colorful artwork and entertaining story lines.

Ciye Cho – About the book“THE ONE-OF-A-KIND CAT BOOK is a whimsical treat for cat lovers everywhere. Dive into its pages to meet Catalina the narcissistic movie star, Kit the steampunk genius, and Guillaume the macaron chef. Browse through letters, notes, and photos to learn about mystery cats from Svalbard and the Amazon. Follow a detective as he unravels the crimes of “Murder Kitties.”

The OOAK Cat Book is a grown-up picture book full of modern themes: a shameless search for fame (or infamy), an obsession with true crime, and our constant need for adventure and kawaii cats. The felines here will guide you to places like Paris, Varanasi,
Woodstock, and the Great Barrier Reef.”

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Front Cover

I was curious to find out more about the illustrated book and Ciye was kind enough to answer a few questions and elaborate on the story and style!

Q Why did you choose to focus on cats for this novel?

CC I have been fascinated with cats for quite some time. They are creatures of great whimsy, beauty, and majesty.

Q Is there anything any particular about the colors/style used in this novel?

CC I tried to create hyper-expressive, super kawaii cats. I’m also a devotee to all things whimsical, so there’s a lot of rainbow hues, pastel colors, busy patterns, and playful imagery.

Q What type of cat lover are you trying to appeal to?

CC All sorts. There are thirty-three different cats in this book, from murderous moggies to famous felines. I’d like to believe that there is something here for everyone. Oh, and there are also some exotic cats in the mix (there’s one in particular that should interest in you, since you often talk about conservation and wild cats).

Q What is the inspiration for the characters in this novel?

CC Firstly, I was inspired by the beauty and wonder of cats. However, on a much broader level, much of the book is a statement on pop culture. For example, modern-day society is obsessed with the concept of fame and the pursuit of fame at all costs. Catalina and tricky, who feature prominently in the book, are perfect purrrrsonifications of these issues. I would like to think that the OOAK Cat Book is a kooky reflection on our strange new world.

Q Is there a message you are trying to convey in your novel, or is
this purely for fun?

CC There are themes in this book (fame, infamy, crime, wonder, love, adventure) that should hopefully resonate with readers. But above all else, I just wanted to draw super cute, super whimsical cats. It relaxes me to look at pictures of fancy felines, and I know that many people feel the same way.

Q Do you have any cats of your own?

CC I was surrounded by cats when I was younger, but I currently don’t have any. However, if we’re counting imaginary pets, I probably have a dozen of those.

Q anything else you would like readers to know?

CC The One-of-a-Kind Cat Book is a story told through a unique mix of letters, postcards, emails, photos, and other clues. Many of these collected tales are mini adventures that you’ll need to piece together with your imagination.

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More images from the book can be viewed here

The book is broken down into 16 “experiences” with each character, relaying their story via different themes such as a Magazine cover, written letters, an iPad, email, postcards and even song lyrics. The attention to detail that has gone into crafting unique themes is appreciated and shows that a lot of thought not only went into the stories and characters, but also the actual illustrations, which could clearly stand on their own as art pieces.

The beautiful and bold use of color help to capture your imagination and work perfectly to bring the sophisticated, intelligent and highly detailed stories to life. One of my personal favorites is the illustration below and the story behind this lovely exotic cat!

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Overall, the book is a visually appealing, unique and fun read that will surprise you with its carefully thought out stories. It makes a great gift for the cat lover looking for something a little different, or that already has everything!

Ciye Cho is a graphic designer who lives and works in Australia and writes YA novels in his spare time. The One-of-a-Kind Cat Book is available in eBook format for $3 and may be purchased directly here.

Thank you to writer Ciye Cho for contacting me and providing a copy of the novel for review.

LA Graffiti – Cat Style

In anticipation of my trip to CatConLA later this week I will be featuring all things cat from California. While doing research, I came across an older news story featuring awesome cat graffiti that started appearing all over Los Angeles freeways and streets a number of years back. I don’t know if any of this still exists, but you can bet I will be keeping an eye out. What can I say, cats really do make everything better, even if only for a brief time.

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All images from Graffhead.com unless otherwise noted

Sometime in late 2009 people noticed cat images popping up all over the city, including freeway underpasses and the streets. According to GraffHead.com cats would appear and nobody, including city officials, could figure out who was painting them. By the looks of some of the locations the talented individual took some big risks to get his worked noticed.

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This is pretty insane, right in the middle of the freeway.

It February of 2010 it seems that there must have been some sort of graffiti war which resulted in some of the cats being painted over, but Graff Head reported the cats came back with a vengeance.

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The Cats Strike Back. Why would anyone paint over the cats?!

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It seems every cat has their day and sadly the graffiti stopped appearing and was removed from the streets and freeways. No new cats were reported but a few never before seen photos  appeared.

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Police finally caught up with and booked Rick Ordonez, the man suspected of the cat tagging spree. A graphic designer and former skateboard shop owner who went by the name Atlas. No surprise he kept cats as pets as was a cat lover. After being sentenced to 90 days for felony vandalism, LA’s Mid-City Arts approached him to do an art show, which he agreed to do while remaining out of the spotlight. When asked Why Cats? He simply answered “I love cats.”

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Vidoe of Cat Tagger – Kitty Litter – Los Angeles Graffiti

 

 

The Panthers and The Nudes

Two bronze sculptures that just went on display at Cambridge University’s Fitzwilliam Museum in the UK seemed to have finally given up their secret.

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Nude bacchants riding panthers” about 3 feet tall each (c.1506–08) (all images © Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, unless noted otherwise)

Which one of these is not like the others. Proving who created this work, also referred to as the “Panther-Riding Drunks”, was long debated but ultimately the honors have gone to  Michelangelo one of the most recognizable and famous artists of the Italian Renaissance. However, when looking at his works like the “David” or the “Sistine Chapel” many refused to credit him as the artist that created these sculptures.

The Bronzes have been “attributed to various circles and schools since their first documented appearance, in 1878 in the collection of Baron Adolphe de Rothschild. The sculptures have been exhibited only a handful of times…but based on new scientific evidence, as well as close analysis…and an invaluable clue from a sheet of one of his disciples’ sketches, Cambridge University professor emeritus Paul Joannides and Victoria Avery, the keeper of applied arts at the Fitzwilliam, have attributed the puzzling pair to the Renaissance master.”

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Unknown draughtsman after Michelangelo Buonarroti, “Sheet of studies with the Virgin embracing the Infant Jesus” (c.1508) (Musée Fabre, Montpellier; ©)

Researchers Avery and Joannides state this drawing, made by an unknown artist after originals by Michelangelo, records the nude riding a panther on the lower right hand corner and “proves that Michelangelo was actively engaged with the very unusual subject of muscular nude men riding panthers and, he was doing so in the first eight years of the sixteenth century.

The work depicts a definite pagan subject  – Bacchus, the Roman God of wine, celebration, nudity and drunkenness.

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Detail of “Nude bacchants riding panthers” (c.1506–08)

While the figures seem to clash, anatomical and well muscled male nudes with stylized panthers that look like they were created from a mix of mythical felines, the researchers say that they way they fit together proves this work was created and intended to be a cohesive unit.

A beautifully odd albeit slightly humorous piece that may be Michelangelo’s only surviving metal sculptures

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Detail of “Nude bacchants riding panthers” (c.1506–08)

The length of time it took to credit Michelangelo with this work may have been partly due to the artists own documented views on bronze sculpture he had later in life. He did not look favorably on the medium and “classed it with painting, and was thus of a lower order than carving.”  Michelangelo’s aesthetic disclaimer had been “taken as gospel by the vast majority of his biographers and commentators” leading most to believe that Michelangelo was not a maker of bronzes.

Cats and Art – They Choose You

Cat parents everywhere understand that it’s the cat who actually chooses us. A connection is made during the first meeting of cat and human making us part of each others world. The art project aptly titled They Choose You is based on this very idea and experience. Together we create a social circle and community, intertwined, felines will be our companions and teachers.

They Choose You is a “participatory, ephemeral art installation…a social mixer–for cats and people” taking place over one weekend in Toronto that will feature rescue cats, for adoption, from Toronto Cat Rescue (TCR).

Toronto based Artist Melanie Lowe seeks to highlight how we relate to other living creatures, in this case cats, in contemporary life. “They Choose You is art as activism, sincere and absurd at the same time, with a motive somewhere between a cat lady’s dream and a creative way to build community. The precarious lives of the cats are intertwined with the humans who inhabit the same city, allowing for an experiential connection in a shared space, beyond the walls of the animal shelter.

I first met Melanie at a similar and successful art event in 2012 and reached out to her to find out more about They Choose You.

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They Choose You – by Melanie Lowe “Ephemeral art installation featuring rescue cats.” November 22-23, 2014 at Artscape Youngplace in Toronto.

When did you first decide you wanted to combine your love for art and cats?

ML I started to think about cats in my own artworks after adopting Tobias from Toronto Animal Services and bringing him home to live with our other two cats. I started reading more about animal behaviour and really paying attention to how the cats interact. It is quite interesting to watch the cats meet, play and get reacquainted with each other.

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Tobias – photo Melanie Lowe

ML My artwork has always been about how we relate to each other in contemporary life and in the last couple of years, it has expanded to how we relate to all living creatures. It makes sense to me…the animals we live with are members of our family, non-human persons really!

What is the biggest challenge/reward in organizing They Choose You?

ML I would say the biggest challenge is coming up with artworks that are both aesthetically pleasing and safe for the cats to interact with. I was looking for an exhibition venue that would be open to the idea of having cats and a space that could be easily modified, open, accessible, yet safe and enjoyable for the cats and people coming to meet them.

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Spend Sunday afternoon crafting with feline friends and artist Emily Gove. Craft your own cat pouch, kitty brooch or crinkle blob cat toy. Register via email with Emily at emily.gove@gmail.com.  Cost $25/person.

You are partnering with TCR for this event, why did you choose this rescue group?

ML I decided to work with TCR, who I also volunteer with as an adoption screener,  because they are an organization that has done many adoption events and is also open to new ways of engaging the public. Volunteers from TCR will be present at all times during the event to oversee any adoptions.

From the perspective of a cat parent what is the biggest challenge homeless or stray cats in Toronto face?

ML There are so many homeless and stray cats in Toronto. It is very important that people keep their cats indoors and have them spayed/neutered, but quite often this doesn’t happen. As much as I love stopping to chat with a friendly cat on a neighborhood street, I’d rather their owners keep them inside!

What is your favorite work of art featuring cats?

ML There are so many. I would say British artist Louis Wain. He is so well-known for his images of cats!

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Artist Louis Wain with cat

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Katzen – Louis Wain

What is the most important thing you would like people to take away from They Choose You ?

ML I would like people who attend They Choose You to come away with a positive experience and be present in the moment–with cats. We can learn so much from them and it makes sense to me to create a space where the cats and people who inhabit the same city can come together. And of course, if they decide to adopt a cat, that’s fantastic! Some people will be coming because they adore cats and already have two or three at home. I’m all for that. It is a social event for cats and humans!

They Choose You is on Indiegogo and the campaign runs until November 30 with funds being raised to cover cost of materials, production, labour and transportation costs for the art installation. $5 donations get you a big thanks at the event and online, $60 gets you a hand crafted scratching post and cool cat toys.

This free event is happening November 22-23 at Artscape Youngplace in Toronto and more info can be found on the They Choose You events Facebook page.