Tracey Emin and Scarface Starring Kittens at L.A.'s Cat Art Show
Susan Michals is sitting at a bar thinking seriously about cats. By day, Culver City-based Michals works as a journalist, covering arts and culture and celebrities. By night and on weekends, she is the curator of Cat Art Show Los Angeles, a two-weekend, four-day group exhibition beginning Jan. 25, which promises "an examination of the psychology, inspiration and physical impact of cats in our lives."
Joann Biondi Local artist Joann Biondi's cat Lorenzo makes his Los Angeles debut this weekend.
The show's taking place thousands of miles away on the country's opposite coast, but there's plenty of Miami in this show. Local artist Joann Biondi, whose series of photo portraits of Lorenzo the Cat have earned local notoriety, will showcase them at the show, alongside cat-themed art by Tracey Emin, who celebrated her first institutional solo show at MOCA (the Miami one, not L.A.'s) in December.
Oh yeah, and there's also a shoot-out scene from Scarface, reimagined with cats holding the guns.
With opening night two weeks away, Michals' cellphone is a-twitter with emails and texts. "The theme is cat as muse and inspiration," she says, "as opposed to domesticated lap cat."
Courtesy of The Kohn Gallery Kittens by Marion Peck
Though this is Michals' first gallery show, the lineup is impressive. That's partly because of the subject matter (cats, duh). And partly it's Michals. Over the years, she has cultivated good relationships with artists and gallerists. Many of the artists in the show are ones she's interviewed. One reason she's a journalist is to "make cool friendships." It was, she decided, "time to capitalize on those friendships."
"Once Tracey Emin and Ray Caesar confirmed, immediately, we had 40 artists who also confirmed. Then, I went to Shepard," she says, meaning Shepard Fairey. "He's allergic, but he loves cats." By summer's end, she had 77 artists.
"It felt like kismet," she says. "I went with artists not just that I knew but ones whose work I admire."
The artists she chose aren't necessarily "cat artists" per se, a decision that met with dismay among a certain faction of feline creatives. More than one angry Facebook message popped into her mailbox. "Not including me is like having a Cubism show and not including Picasso," one guy wrote.
"I have been painting cats exclusively for my 30 years as a professional artist in L.A.," seethed another. "But I suppose that doesn't matter to you ... in your art-world citadel."
"I'm sorry," she says now. "But curating a show is my discretion. Stylistically, aesthetically. I was disappointed that these gentlemen did not have a little more couth."
She pulls up images of the artwork on her phone. Caesar, considered the grandfather of digital art, contributed an artist's proof of one of his trademark creepy girls with large foreheads. She's in an elegant, blue dress holding a yowling tabby cat in her hands. "He's collected by Madonna and the Hearst family," Michals purrs. "He's in the Guggenheim."
Mattia Biagi contributed a sculpture of a black cat riding a Roomba (it will roll around the gallery). Rob Reger, creator of Emily the Strange, contributed a square piece entitled "40 Cats in 4 Directions." It spins on the wall. "Any way you look at it, there will be a cat that's upright."
Misako Inaoka made a double-headed cat sculpture, flanked by two kinetic mice. "They chirp when you walk by. We'll have to rope those off somehow so people don't step on them."Michals flicks the cellphone screen to bring up another image - a long, black obelisk of a window with a gray cat perched at the bottom. "This one is Christian Furr. He was the youngest artist ever to paint Queen Elizabeth. His cat's name is Mr. Chunky."