The other day, I was flicking through the latest issue of Catster’s print magazine and I came across a small image of some cats looking like they were plucked from a Victorian-era horror story. Reading the accompanying blurb, it turns out the mixed-media artwork was created by Mari Lowery and is the end product of her tinkering around with “altered antique photos.”
Intrigued by those initial images, I checked out Mari’s online store and discovered a treasure trove of similarly creepy — but always intriguing — artwork. Even better, many of the pieces starred cats, dressed up and posed as humans. That being so, I contacted Mari and asked her about the origins of her style, the appeal of her peculiar felines, and the back stories behind some of the scenes.
Catster: Where did the idea to mix old photographs with images of animals, including cats, come from?
Mari Lowery: In 2006, I started using a photo-sharing site to post my photography and saw some artists that were doing cool things with Photoshop — one of them was mixing animals with vintage photos. I taught myself how to use Photoshop and played around with some of the old photos I had.
I made a few images, but at the time I was much more interested in continuing to explore photography, so I didn’t do much with the idea until about five years ago. In 2010, I created a few animal portraits, and as I started to collect more and more vintage photos, I found this kind of work interested me more than photography, so I just kept doing it.
What was the first cat-themed image you created?
A pretty terrible picture of a creepy doll with a Devon Rex head!
Where do you source the original photos from?
I use vintage photos from my own collection; they are mostly bought on the Internet.
Your artwork often stars cats but also features other animals. How do you decide which type of animal is going to appear on a certain photo?
The process is different each time. Sometimes the posture of the person — or if they’re holding a pet — will give me a clue as to what kind of animal they should be. Other times I’ll try a few options before one fits. Once something seems to click I will fine tune it, but I usually know ahead of time the type of animal I want to work with next. It’s usually one that I haven’t done before — but I do make them cats a lot.
What’s the appeal of seeing cats dressed up and posing like people?
I think cats are just universally cute. It’s something that appeals to me, but I don’t think it does to everyone.
How do people usually react to seeing your images?
The response is really mixed. Some people write me and say that they think the work I do is amazing, and other people think they’re super creepy. That’s funny because of all the things I make, the animal images are probably some of the least creepy.
If you had to create a back story for the Kitten Girls image, what would it be?
Alice and Abigail’s parents think that they are sleeping but they’re really staying up late and playing dress-up with their pet mouse.
And how about Gray Boy?
Gray Boy is supposed to be feeding the chickens but you’ll often find him sitting under a tree, daydreaming and stalking squirrels. Gray Boy was named as an homage to my grandmother, who I lived with when I was a kid. She had a cat named Gray Boy. I also named one of my cats Gray for that reason, too.
Do you have any other cats beyond Gray?
I do. There’s also Sparkle, my 14-year-old, and then Gray’s sister Luka, who’s two years old.
Intrigued by Mari’s images? Head on over to her Etsy page to check out the full range of her art.
Read more interviews on Catster:
About Phillip Mlynar: The self-appointed world’s foremost expert on rappers’ cats. When not penning posts on rap music, he can be found building DIY cat towers for his adopted domestic shorthair, Mimosa, and collecting Le Creuset cookware (in red). He has also invented cat sushi, but it’s not quite what you think it is.