Cats continue to creep into human culture. When I say this, I don’t just mean that humanity risks emotional obliteration in the audiovisual avalanche of cat videos and photos supplied by the Internet. I mean cats are strengthening their paw-hold in ways that transcend “Adorable!” and “Oh God would you look at that vet bill.” Behavior consultants, for example, teach us how to introduce our cats to new romantic partners so that all mammals in a household can live in harmony. Books and websites, meanwhile, show us how to improve our homes in ways that are aesthetically daring and also great for our cats’ mental and physical health.
Contemporary visual art is another way cats are getting in front of us, and Susan Michals is one person giving us a chance to see that art. An upcoming exhibit is her second time doing this — the first was in 2014. The show takes place in March, and it’s called Cat Art Show | Los Angeles 2: The Sequel. Michals is at the forefront of cats and culture. In 2015 she produced CatConLA, described as “like Comic-Con … for cat people,” which drew some 12,000 attendees, remarkable for any event, and even more so for one in its first year. The second CatCon is set for late June.
Cat lovers will recognize some of the names at this year’s Cat Art Show, including Rob Reger, the artist behind the cat-loving comic character Emily the Strange, as well as Joann Biondi, a fine-art photographer and owner of Lorenzo the Cat. Those are two among 70-some-odd artists.
I’ve known Susan for many years, and I spoke to her recently about Cat Art Show 2. Samples of the works are interspersed with the interview questions and answers.
Before the first Cat Art Show, in 2014, I asked you, “Why do an art show devoted to cats?” So why do another art show devoted to cats? How did the first one go over? Is there still an overlap of cats and culture?
The first Cat Art Show LA did very well — we had nearly 5,000 people come by during our four-day run. Why do another one? Well, cats always have been — and continue to be – popular. Their attitudes, mannerisms, and occasional obliviousness to the fact we want to sleep in is a constant source of amazement and perplexity and thus, perfect art fodder.
You produced CatConLA last year, which had some 12,000 attendees, and the second one is in June. Would something like Cat Art Show fold into that bigger event? If not, how is it different, and what’s the advantage of an art show on its own?
Being that I was and still am an art journalist, I feel that Cat Art Show is a devotional exercise that I don’t want to give up. It was also the thought starter for CatCon. I feel these two events, while fulfilling our everloving needs of feline finery, should be two entities. And besides, why not have two or even three cat events per year?
I count 74 artists on the Cat Art Show website. Are there really that many artists involved? How does the final number compare with the number of the first one?
Last time we had about 70. Yes, there are that many involved and we are about to add a couple of more. But my producer is cutting me off because we’re going to run out of room.
In terms of the number of artists or works, is Cat Art Show 2 bigger than the first? Will it be at a different venue?
Cat Art Show 2 is bigger. The show will take place at a new location, Think Tank Gallery in DTLA, and actually pretty close to where we hold CatCon (The Reef).
Some of the artists’ names a lot of cat lovers will recognize, including Rob Reger and Joann Biondi. Are there any artists in particular you’re especially excited about? Any works you find especially noteworthy or moving?
Every time a new work shows up, I’m even more excited than the last. What’s really interesting is the dynamic spectrum of the work. Artists such as Norman Reedus, who most people know from the show The Walking Dead, is an avid photographer who recently had a solo exhibition here in town. I really love the work by German artist Rudi Hurzlmeier of a cat getting caught about to steal a fish — it makes me smile every time I look at it.
Zane York from the East Coast has created a work called Ascension which looks like something out of the Sistine Chapel, but with cats. And it will hang from the ceiling! Then we have Mick Rock, who is known as “the man who shot the ’70s,” photographing musicians such as Iggy Pop, David Bowie, and Lou Reed. He’s giving us a work of his dearly departed cat, Spike.
In 2014 the show’s beneficiary was Stray Cat Alliance of L.A. Do you have a benficiary this time?
Yes! This year we are benefiting Kitten Rescue.
I asked a similar question last time, but it’s always relevant. Art can be intimidating subject matter in the U.S. Some people might say, “I don’t know anything about art. I can’t go to an exhibition.” What would you say to such people?
If you’re into cats you’ll love this show. It explores the beauty of our feline friends, and no matter what your experience is with art, you’ll find something at the show that speaks to you.
Anything I haven’t asked that you want to say about the show?
Get ready for some mind blowing cat art!
If you live in Southern California or plan to visit, Cat Art Show | Los Angeles 2: The Sequel takes place March 24-27 at Think Tank Gallery in downtown Los Angeles.
About Keith Bowers: This broad-shouldered, bald-headed, leather-clad motorcyclist also has passions for sharp clothing, silver accessories, great writing, the arts, and cats. This career journalist loves painting, sculpting, photographing, and getting on stage. He once was called “a high-powered mutant,” which also describes his cat, Thomas. He is senior editor at Catster.