Cat artists create modern art

The painter tilts his head, examining the canvas. Slowly, gently, he reaches out and touches what to others would appear to be a simple red blob and, with a less than delicate touch, smears it across the canvas. He is feverish with excitement as the piece comes to life and he begins to work furiously. Unexpectedly, he suddenly flings coffee grounds onto his masterpiece, followed by powdered cinnamon, cloves and turmeric.

Feline artists

The latest addition to the catalog of modern art isn't from the abstract, surrealist or even cubist spheres. Rather, it's a whole new school that is gaining attention: the Purrists.

When one of the volunteers from Chicago's Spay and Stay (SAS) feral cat management group brought in the book "Why Cats Paint," the group became energized. The book, a tongue-in-cheek look at the theory and history of feline aesthetics, presents cat artists at their easels in front of various subjects. If it can be done in a book, they reasoned, it could be done here. Did they have any emerging artists among their charges?

Volunteer Beth Richmond knew her own cats would love the opportunity to show off their talents, especially Lynx, who already has a celebrity-seeking personality.

"She yowls like a banshee," said Beth. "She's always complaining about the management, complaining about the food."

Modern art cat painters

Beth quickly found her role as an assistant (the proper human function in a cat's world!) readying canvasses and paint, and generally making sure the artists have everything they need. She notes that Lynx, a refined and somewhat royal feline, is interested in New Age themes. All of her pieces center around the stars of Orion's Belt. As an older artist, the lynx-point Siamese's artwork carries more than a hint of sophistication.

A sleek black cat named Figaro, the only male in the house, is a regular Don Juan. All the girls love him. But he only has eyes for his girlfriend, Belle, whose name is cleverly hidden in all of his paintings. He has a masculine style, and prefers to create his version of mixed media with rough textures and bold lines.

Kali, the tortoise-shell matriarch of the family, creates works imbued with happiness and love. She leans toward pastel color schemes, giving all her paintings an airy quality filled with light and playfulness.

After adding the last brush of paint, the cats indulge in a spa treatment. Figaro enjoys simply cleaning his paws with a damp cloth, while Kali prefers warm perfumed water and a light blow-dry.

Chicago's Spay and Stay's fundraising cat art event

The SAS group developed a fundraising event showcasing local cat art, and, among fits and giggles, chose to call it "PiCATsso, a Feline Art Exhibit." All artwork donated will be displayed with a photo and a whimsical bio of the artiste. The group contacted local professionals in the art community to judge the art on its Purrfection of Craftsmanship, Fe-Line Quality and Composition, and Spay-tial Neutrality.

With all the glamour attributed to a gallery opening, human guests at the exhibit will be serenaded, wined and dined, and, of course, entertained while participating in a silent auction to acquire their favorite pieces.

Helping feral cats

Spay and Stay will use the proceeds to continue its work with feral cats. Just three years old, the organization has already trapped, altered and released over 1,200 felines in the Chicago area.

It's a stressful time for Lynx, Figaro and Kali, who know other emerging artists will be mounting stiff competition and touting their craft. But the family will continue to blend, splatter and manipulate paint into purrfect pieces of art, vying to be remembered in history books as the masters of the Purrealist movement.

Get more info about Spay and Stay's PiCATsso event and instructions for bringing out the artist in your cat on their website.