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.

Cats in Art – Hawaii Edition

Colorful, fun, and beautifully done the paintings by visual artist Linda Bachrach had me at meow. Linda is a Honolulu based artist who creates Asian inspired watercolor paintings featuring cats who are full of personality. Sweet, cheeky and playful I found her work warm and welcoming. Walking by an outdoor art show in Waikiki I spotted her paintings and I could not leave without picking up at least one print to take home with me.

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Hibiscus Cat -This darling cat came home to Toronto

Linda started painting in 1997 in San Francisco then in 2001 moved to Honolulu where she studied the basics of western watercolor painting. She creates her feline masterpieces using Chinese brush, bamboo, pen, twig, eyedropper dipped in ink, Japanese ink sticks and Gansai paints.

Besides prints Linda also creates original pieces on canvas and cards, a few that I really enjoyed are posted here with her permission.

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The whimsical works convey a love for her subjects with paintings sometimes featuring the personality of her own cats. The felines are all painted in a “loose and expressive style to capture the attitudes and personalities of these wonderful creatures. Most are imaginative in color and shape with a special mischievous look in their eye.”

If you find yourself in Hawaii be sure to stop by the art Art on the Zoo Fence near the Honolulu Zoo across from Kapi’olani Park in Waikiki on Sundays to say hi and pick up a Hawaiian cat to bring home. If you can’t make it out this way fear not, Linda’s work is available from her Etsy Store – Hawaii Cats with prices starting $18.

The First Mechanical Lion

When most people think of Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci they think of his paintings The Last Supper or the Mona Lisa, the latter being one of his most enigmatic paintings ever created.

However, it’s one of his lesser known works commissioned at the end of his life, that I find simply the most fascinating – The Mechanical Lion. Da Vinci way ahead of his time, merged both artistic and technical skills perfectly. I actually find this work extremely brilliant and can only imagine what it was like to see something like this in the year 1515, it must have been mind-blowing.

The piece was a gift given to honor the newly crowned King of France, Francois I by Giuliano de’ Medici in Lyon.  The Lion the symbol of Florence, its chest cavity filled with lilies (the fleurs-de-lis of France), was meant to symbolize the close relationship between the families.

The piece set in motion “…and it moved from its place in the hall and when it came to a halt its breast opened, and was full of lilies and flowers.”

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Da Vinci’s Mechanical Lion walks again

Sadly, the original Lion has long since been lost, or perhaps is hiding in someones private collection somewhere, but the mechanical drawings for the piece survived. The Lion was reconstructed  in 2009 at the Château du Clos Lucé and Parc, in France, as part of a     Da Vinci exhibition.

 

There is also a secret spot on the Lions mane, that when stroked causes a trapdoor to open on the Lions side revealing fleur de lys. 🐱