Fine Art Felines Friday: Electric Cat by Louis Wain

An Electric Cat painted by Louis Wain.

An Electric Cat painted by Louis Wain.

Happy Independence Day!  I chose today’s painting by Louis Wain because it almost looks like this cat is erupting into fireworks, which is appropriate for my current blogging soundtrack (hint: it’s just before sunset and people in my neighborhood are getting amped up on beer and whiskey and are ready to light things on fire and watch them explode already!).  I could not find a title or a date for this piece, but that’s not too surprising, since Wain painted a lot of cat pictures like this in his later years, many of which were untitled and undated.  But let me back up.

I can’t believe, that as a person who loves cats and who loves art, and even more loves art featuring cats, I’d never heard of Louis Wain.  Seriously.  Just do an image google for “Louis Wain cats” and you’ll see what I mean – what a prolific painter!  He was born all the way back in 1860 in London, and led an unusual life, it seems to me.  He was the oldest of six children; none of his five sisters were ever married, but lived with their mother; all except for the youngest sister, who was declared insane and was admitted to an asylum.  Strangely enough, Wain, who had a cleft lip, did not attend regular school as a child, but achieved modest success as a free-lance artist with his illustrations of animals and the English countryside.  At the age of 23, he married Emily, who succumbed to breast cancer a mere 3 years into their marriage.  However, it was during her time of sickness that Emily and Louis rescued a black and white kitten that they named Peter, who did much to comfort Emily while she was ill.  Louis produced many sketches and paintings of Peter, who changed the course of his art for the rest of Louis’ life.

While Louis’ early work was more realistic, Louis’ intermediate works were anthropomorphized versions of cats, wearing the latest fashions, having parties, and doing other things that humans might do.  During this time, Louis was actively involved with several animal charities such as the Governing Council of Our Dumb Friends League, the Society for the Protection of Cats, and the Anti-Vivisection Society. He was also active in the National Cat Club, acting as President and Chairman of the committee at times.  You gotta love a man who loves cats this much, right???

Sadly, during his later years, Louis was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was institutionalized until someone publicized his plight (he was quite a popular artist for his time, although poorly managed his money).  His new doctor diagnosed him instead with Asperger’s Syndrome, a type of autism, and Louis was moved to a hospital that had a garden and colony of cats, which Louis enjoyed for the last 15 years of his life.  It was during this time that his paintings became more abstract, using bright colors and complex patterns.  Louis died on July 4, 1939, making today the 75th anniversary of his death (seriously, I did not plan this).

H.G. Wells (who wrote The War of the Worlds and many other works of science fiction) said of Louis Wain:

He has made the cat his own. He invented a cat style, a cat society, a whole cat world. English cats that do not look and live like Louis Wain cats are ashamed of themselves.”

If you missed the AcroCats, YOU MISSED OUT!!!

AcroCats and Rock Cats!I just don’t know how to describe the amazing talents of the AcroCats.  It…it was as if a big jar of awesome spilled all over a sparkly purple stage filled with incredible cats.  It was…it was perfectly imperfect, because after all, we were watching cats performing, and they are CATS.  It was incredibly surprising because…because the show did not devolve into a chaotic pandemonium of cats fleeing into the audience and causing a massive storm of attacks on ankles and allergic outbreaks…no no no!  These cats, THESE cats, were simply mindblowing.

And not just cats, but a chicken (named Cluck Norris), groundhog and three rats all BROUGHT IT!  All the animals were clicker-trained using positive reinforcement, which led me to two conclusions: 1) HOLY SHIT YOU CAN TRAIN CATS, and 2) WHY DO MY CATS SUCK SO MUCH???  Seriously.  They don’t do anything except know when to come running when I open up a can of anything.  The AcroCats performed all sorts of tricks, leaping through hoops, jumping obstacles, BOWLING, running around in a non-random order, and jeeze – they even ran INTO their individual crates when a whistle sounded.  My cats, on the other hand, sleep, eat, dirty their litter boxes at an alarming rate, and require a front-end loader to get them into their travel crates.  The AcroCats and Rock Cats:  play actual musical instruments, recognize visual commands, and don’t necessarily seek to cause panic and alarm (except for Tuna, who possibly has plans for world domination, but I’m not sure).  My cats:  play with the horizontal blinds in our bedroom at 2 in the morning, decide that demons are chasing them in the wee hours of the night, and are plotting a biological attack on the world starting with me by weakening my immune system to the point of giving me crippling allergies to these sneaky, plotting kitties.  I’M ON TO YOU, THOUGH!!!  I will not succumb to your evil plotting!

Anyway…how about some pictures of the show?  It was magical, and I hope that you get the opportunity to see them some day.  Go to www.CircusCats.com to learn more, and see if the AcroCats and Rock Cats are coming to a theater near you!!!  Grab yo’ cat ears and yo’ cat leggings and yo’ cat shirts and see these amazing kitties…it’s totally worth it!!!

This just happened.  Gritty Cat meets the Rock Cats!

This just happened. Gritty Cat meets the Rock Cats!

Related Posts:  At Least I’m Not Allergic to Lucky Charms, Bu bu bum! Bu bu bum! Bu bu bu bum…CAT SHOW!!!, Cats cats cats cats cats!

I Needed an Attitude Adjustment so I got a NEW BIKE!!!

I’ve gotten in a little bit of a rut around exercise (see my recent posts on roller derby, any of them) so I decided to start biking to work again (which may just help me with endurance and my 27-in-5 goals).  I pulled my mountain bike out of the shed, dusted it off and tested the brakes when – SNAPPO! – one of the brake cables gave out.  One of the brake lines went slack and I couldn’t see how to fix it, so I said “eff this…I’m getting a new bike”!  Actually, I’d been wanting a new bike for a while because my mountain bike wasn’t great for biking to work – it’s pretty heavy, and just slow and cumbersome.  So after some advice and browsing, I came home from The Bike Gallery with this beauty, a brand new Trek Allant!

NewBike

It’s a super sweet ride just perfect for the trendy bike commuter – fenders, large squishy seat for my bum, and angled grips to keep my hands from falling asleep.  I sit all upright, like Mary Poppins, or more accurately, the Wicked Witch of the West.  I breezed to work this morning and barely broke a sweat!  Of course, the best part about a new bike is pimping it out with awesome accessories, like my new bike bell:

NewBikeBell

And just to share all the bicycling fun, here’s an ear-worm for you.  Maybe you’ll be inspired to get your bike out, too!  (Okay, so this is the official music video and there *might* be (or, more accurately, is) some nudity in it, but seriously, it isn’t any worse/better than the World Naked Bike Ride, held in Portland every year.  Enjoy!)

Related Post:  Bikin’ It!

Writing 101: Lori The Llama Lady

Napoleon and me at the seniors' expoI met Lori at a seniors’ expo in downtown Vancouver.  I’m not sure what was more odd – me being at a seniors’ expo on a Saturday afternoon, or seeing Lori at her booth connected by a short lead to Napoleon, a cream-colored alpaca wearing a red hat and sparkly accessories gazing serenely at the seniors gathered around him.  I was at the expo volunteering for Columbia River Pet Partners, an organization that matches people and their pets (usually dogs) up with various programs that bring therapy animals to people in need – folks in retirement and rehab centers, kids in hospitals, reading programs in libraries, and similar groups.  Lori was at the expo promoting her non-profit organization, Mountain Peaks Therapy Llamas and Alpacas.  I’m in the process of getting a couple of certificates, one in Animal Assisted Therapy (more about that in a future post), and had never heard of llamas or alpacas being used as therapy animals, so after chatting with her a bit, Lori invited me to come along with her to visit a rehabilitation center a few weeks later.

I took an afternoon off from work (hmmm…sitting at my computer, or playing with llamas?  Sitting at my computer, or playing with llamas?  It wasn’t a hard decision, honestly) and drove out to Lori’s home and small farm on a hot, dry day.  Lori met me at her door and immediately gave me a hug as she hurriedly went around back to finish preparing Rojo for our visit to the rehab center.  I followed her to a shed behind her house where Rojo, a 12 year old llama who even has his own Facebook page, waited patiently for Lori to finish grooming him.  Rojo towered over me, with a long furry neck and very fluffy legs, resembling a camel wearing pantaloons.  Lori explained to me that llamas and alpacas are more related to camels than anything else, which makes sense when you look at them.  Rojo didn’t seem to mind that I was there as Lori finished brushing his coat, making it soft, smooth and shiny.  He was so very calm and proud, and didn’t even seem to care that I was there.

I was wondering how we were going to get Rojo to the rehab center, when Lori opened the sliding door on a minivan behind the shed and Rojo jumped right in the back and sat down.  Well, ok!  I’d never ridden in a minivan with a llama before, but there’s a first for everything, I suppose.  On the way down, Lori carefully navigated the highway drive into Portland while chatting about her experience using llamas and alpacas as therapy animals.  She’s had Rojo since he was six months old, and has been using him as a therapy animal since he was four.  Her shoulder-length blond hair blew in the air-conditioned breeze from the minivan’s vents…it was hot in the car, and Rojo was probably warm underneath all that hair.  An extrovert, I can see why Lori makes a good facilitator for interactions with her animals and clients – she explained the ins and outs of her business with me, and was very candid about some of the challenges she’s had to overcome.  But she passionately explained that alpacas and llamas are great as therapy animals because the are so patient, calm, large and sturdy, and can take petting and touching from people who aren’t necessarily very coordinated due to age or physical ailments.  They generally aren’t shaken up by noises, activities around them, and are easily maneuverable around equipment and furniture.  I learned a lot from Lori during that car ride, and Rojo listened as well, patiently as ever.

I even got to lead Rojo into the rehab facility!

I even got to lead Rojo into the rehab facility!

During our visit to the rehabilitation center, Lori confidently steered Rojo to every single resident of the rehab center, which also seemed to be a nursing home for many older residents.  She engaged with each and every single person, asking questions, and even guiding hands over fur for those clients who couldn’t see or move to touch Rojo themselves.  I was the carrot girl, doling out short slices of carrots to everyone to feed to Rojo, who will never have a vitamin A deficiency, I’m sure.  Some of the

Even the staff looks forward to Rojo's visits.

Even the staff looks forward to Rojo’s visits.

residents were even brave enough to put a piece of carrot between their lips and get a kiss from Rojo!  I was enamored by the caring and gentle way that both Lori and Rojo interacted with each person.  Lori explained that for some of the residents, visits from her animals are sometimes the only visits they receive.  Lori is able to visit this particular center every month or two, but you can see the recognition and happiness that these visits bring.  It was almost magical, the effect that Lori and Rojo had on the people at the rehab center, including the staff, who spend their days caring for the people living there.

I was so fortunate to spend the afternoon with Lori and Rojo – Lori taught me a lot about the healing power of therapy animals, and was a great example of how to interact with this very special group of people who need all the love they can get.  It was an honor to observe their work, and I hope to get to do it again sometime soon…I’d even be willing to take another afternoon off of work!


This is Day 6 of Writing 101.  Today’s assignment was to answer this question:  Who’s the most interesting person (or people) you’ve met this year?  And the twist:  Turn your post into a character study.

I know I’m a little behind in the writing assignments, but I had to write about my experience with the therapy llama.  I realize that I chose to write about *both* Lori and Rojo, who are *both* very interesting, and I hope I gave you at least a small picture of who they are and what they do.  I’m so glad I got to meet both of these unique individuals!

 

Writing 101: Dashing Under the Night Sky (Part 1 of 3)

What I remember, when I was maybe four years old, is staring up at the night sky through the back window of my father’s hatchback.  We were on the road and it was dark, except for the billions of stars above me.  I could feel the tires of the car, a flesh-colored Volkswagen Dasher, on the highway, and it was so late at night, or maybe so early in the morning.  I was tired, but being lulled back to sleep by the movement of the car, the smell of the car’s dry heat coming from the plastic vents, and the soft glow of the lights in the dashboard.  My brother, a year and a half younger, was asleep next to me.  It is a brief memory, but one that I have held onto for some reason.

The events surrounding the memory are a little less clear.  I seem to recall my dad waking me up in the middle of the night – or was it early morning and still dark? – and telling me and my brother to get up, that we were going.  I can’t remember if the car was packed with our belongings.  Previous to that night, I don’t remember my dad packing our things, or telling us we were moving, although I’m sure he did and I was just too young to really know what it meant.  I don’t remember arriving at our destination, or if a moving truck was involved.  I didn’t know at the time why we were moving.

It was the first time though, that I remember knowing, really understanding, that my mother was not with us, would not be joining us along the way, and would not meet us there.  I didn’t know when my brother and I would see her again.  I worried that she wouldn’t know how to find us.  I worried that we would not see her again, or that perhaps we would be too old and that she wouldn’t recognize us.

And as those stars slipped across the night sky, as we dashed along the highway moving from our home in Wisconsin to our new home in Oklahoma, the distance between me and my mother seemed to grow greater and greater, until we became no closer than the nearest stars in the sky.

 

Photo by Frank Delargy

Photo by Frank Delargy

Related post:  Silence is never louder than when you should be asleep

 


 

This is Day 4 of Writing 101.  Today’s assignment was to:  Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more.  And the twist:  Make today’s post the first in a three-post series.

I really struggled with this post in that I couldn’t think of what to write about, let alone how to incorporate it into a three-post trilogy.  I thought of all kinds of losses – people, pets, objects, games…but nothing really stood out, until I found this memory, lurking in the corner of my mind.  It wasn’t a permanent loss; today, my mother is very much a part of my life, I am happy to say.  I’m not quite sure how this will start my trilogy, but I’ll think of something, eventually!

Fine Art Felines Funday: Lying Female Nude with Cat by Pablo Picasso

Because I’m taking Writing 101, my Fine Art Felines posts are now going to be on Sundays instead of Fridays, at least for the month of June.  I chose today’s Fine Art Felines piece, Lying Female Nude with Cat by Pablo Picasso, as a juxtaposition to the last piece I featured, Woman with Cat, also by Pablo Picasso (drawn in 1900).  Today’s piece from Picasso’s later years, completed in 1964, is a great example of the surrealism exhibited by Picasso as his painting style matured and evolved.  However, if you compare it to Woman with Cat, you’ll see that there are some similarities between the two paintings and that (as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago) you can see the characteristic Picasso style even in his earlier work.  For example, the color palate is very similar; the greens and blues, while more saturated than in the earlier painting, still reflect a quiet and intimate mood.  Further, while the previous piece was impressionistic and this piece is more surrealist, there is still a great deal of motion and communication between the two subjects.  Perhaps this is the “bizarro” world version of the earlier drawing…maybe this painting is the view of the person in the portrait and shows what he sees as he looks into the room and gazes upon a woman and her cat.

It seems that Picasso was rather fond of painting women with cats, including several nudes – and to be honest, if I were a painter, I’d probably paint a lot of women with cats, too! What similarities do you see between the two Picasso pieces?  Which one do you prefer?  Leave a comment and let me know!

Lying Female Nude with Cat by Pablo Picasso

Lying Female Nude with Cat by Pablo Picasso

Writing 101: The shortest story I have ever written.

Your letter was not

for my eyes, but still I cried –

Your intent, fulfilled.

Image from lupusinflight.com.

Image from lupusinflight.com.

 


This is Day 5 of Writing 101.  Today’s assignment was to write about this:  You stumble upon a random letter on the path. You read it. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to which it’s addressed. Write a story about this encounter.  And the twist:  Approach this post in as few words as possible.

The first thing I thought of when I read today’s assignment was “haiku”.  Boom.  Also, I’m still working on yesterday’s assignment…sit tight, it will happen.