Art Cats

image Artists work in all different kinds of mediums. Some work in oil. Others in stone. Dave Powell's medium is cats. He breeds cats and then displays them as art in plastic containers. He tries to breed for mutations such as polydactylism. He seems a little sensitive that people won't think his cat-in-a-box displays qualify as art, but he argues that they are since anything created with 'artistic intent' is art. I actually disagree. I think that art is whatever art critics define as art. In other words, it's up to the audience to decide what qualifies as art, not the artist. But as a cat lover, I'm perfectly to happy to regard cats as art.

Animals Art

Posted on Mon May 23, 2005


Hmmmm.. Peronally, I smell not so much 'art' but 'I can't make anything decent, so I'll make something controversial'.. He'd probably wet himself silly if PETA showed up to protest, since it'd mean more publicity.

Now, if he'd built interesting enclosures for them, then maybe. Artistic cat habitats, to go with the 'artistic' cats.

Still, I'd be concerned for the cats on 'display'. Cats don't enjoy confinement one bit.
Posted by Bobcat  on  Mon May 23, 2005  at  09:06 PM
Ahh, so it is art if it is criticized.

But everything anyone does is criticized.

Then, it is art only if it is criticized by an art critic?

So... one should not try to define what is art or what art is, but, rather, one should work towards the definition of what an art critic is. Thereby whatever they critique or criticize can be considered art.

Personally, I have an uncle named Art and all he does is criticize.

But really, art is a concept. Like good and evil. Defining it is like naming colors.

Or, as they say in Family Guy:

Peter: "Whats the difference between art and pornography"..

Glenn/Cleveland: "Heh, heh, here it comes..."

Peter:"A Government grant! Hahahahahaha!"
Posted by Splarka  on  Tue May 24, 2005  at  03:37 AM
Personally, for something to be considered art, I think an artist should have about 75% control of his medium. In other words, if you do some modern art where you splash paint around, it's only valid insofar as you have a basic control of where the paint goes. Computer programs that yield interesting patterns are not art, unless you're actually skilled enough to make those patterns resemble objects.
Posted by Citizen Premier  on  Tue May 24, 2005  at  08:19 AM
8-/ Wonder if this will spark a debate about bonsai kitties. Anywho...This is stupid. His 'art' looks like the window where you look at the cats in the pet store.
Posted by Maegan  on  Tue May 24, 2005  at  11:34 AM
Hey, his 'art' is validated as 'art' because someone who owns a gallery is willing to exhibit it.

And personally, those enclosures look a lot like the Cat Boarding Prisons at my vet.

I'd like to know more details about the exhibits... how long do the cats stay on display at a time?

It's almost cat performance art.

Which makes me think of something much more interesting- the Why Cats Dance, Why Cats Paint, and Why Paint Cats books!
Posted by Katey  on  Tue May 24, 2005  at  04:28 PM
I'm less inclined to accept that cats are art than that they are artists.

Performance artists.
Posted by Big Gary in Dallas  on  Tue May 24, 2005  at  06:59 PM
I feel so mature. I read through this site and spent a good two minutes laughing at the dwarf cats out loud, and shrieking "Dwarfy cat". Less caffeine for me.
Posted by JN  on  Tue May 24, 2005  at  07:06 PM
Hey Katey...get a horse tranquilizer from your vet. Seems like you need one.

And ART isn't art b/c it's up in a gallery. Things go up in a gallery to MAKE MONEY.

This isn't art. It's CRAP. CAT CRAP. Thank you very much.
Posted by Maegan  on  Wed May 25, 2005  at  07:46 AM
Maegan, be fair. We have stuff up in the gallery at the moment that we're not charging people to see. However, we bought it in the first place, so they did make money from it.

However, the cat thing? Not art.
Posted by Boo  on  Wed May 25, 2005  at  08:11 AM
Selective breeding of animals as other people do. That makes him a cat breeder.
Whoop de doo.
Posted by Boo  on  Wed May 25, 2005  at  08:12 AM
Boo knows art. If she says it's not art...IT'S NOT ART. That's just all there is to it.
Posted by Maegan  on  Wed May 25, 2005  at  09:38 AM
This is actually rather flattering and odd at the same time. I don't know if anyone will even read this, since the thread took place last May (could have eMailed me then). Furthermore, one is not supposed to answer one's critics... But what the heck, I'll play. I'll simply make a clarified statement here, and folks can take what they wish...
Host-Header: The notion that art critics decide what is art is pretty silly, and the same regarding an audience providing validation. Art critics are a very recent phenomena (i.e., are cave paintings art, sculpture in Tut's tomb, etc?), and incidentally, since I am also an international published art critic, either: A. My work is art because I say so; or B. You'll take my word for it when I say critics are a necessary evil of the Art World, no more, no less.
But regarding an audience: suppose I throw a beautiful pot from clay, glaze it, fire it, and bury it... Is that thing in the ground art, or will it only re-become art when it is dug up again? There are numerous criteria for determining what is art and what isn't... For instance, quality. Yet quality and the other determinants are so relative (as most of the serious professional art world agrees), that in the final analysis, my personal (well-considered) opinion is that the essential, primary, and fundamental criteria for art is intent.
Bobcat: If controversy were my goal, I would have accepted the recent offer to have a New York Times feature story on my work, but I turned it down... And PETA would have shown up long ago if there were anything to protest over (bet your ass on that).
Furthermore, I attempted to be as explicit as humanly possible in explaining that the enclosures are simply for the ArtCats' protection when they are being exhibited. If and when I am ready to sell an ArtCat as a finished work, of course the display of, and interaction with the art in the buyer's home would be as a typical housecat functions (though I'm sure far more pampered than usual, if only for the price of the investment). An ArtCat is "The art that loves you back." And cats raised spending some part of the time in enclosures do not mind limited stints inside... I do in fact, care about the well-being of my animals.
Splarka: On the part about art and pornography, this is an aside, but as a Libertarian I am against the government sanctioning of any art (that is not to say that the government doesn't need to hire architects to build buildings, sculptors and painters to put art in given locations, etc... Just that I feel the government subsidy of art hurts the quality of art overall; at least in our culture, in this socioeconomic period)...
Posted by Dave Powell  on  Sat Dec 03, 2005  at  03:21 AM
Citizen Premier: The 75% control of the medium thing is absurdly arbitrary to the point of amusing...
Actually, I was trained as a painter. Now this is what I could have done: Grown flax, hewn a couple trees, slaughtered and boiled a few rabbits, dug some minerals and chalk, and gave a rodent a haircut... Then, I could have woven the flax into linen, planed down some bars to make the stretcher frame, sized the linen with rabbit skin glue, then my homemade gesso, pummeled the minerals into the oil I crushed from the linseed pods, and bound an application implement from the sable hairs... That's what it would take just to have a blank canvas stretched, some paint, and a brush!
There's probably some obsessive nut out there doing that, but at any rate, considering the fairly ridiculous example I just offered, even the most controlled, technically representative illustrator does far less than 75% of the effort (real work) that goes into making a painting physically possible.
Also, to say that the only work executed on a computer that qualifies as art is that which looks like objects is severely shortsighted.
Maegan: The "bonsai kittens" are an intentional hoax; but it does raise the interesting question whether or not hoaxing can be an artform. Certainly many of the crop circles are quite aesthetically pleasing, require considerable skill, creative imagination, and are even spiritually uplifting.
As far as my art looking like a pet store window, again, the cat itself is the art, not the display. The displays are simply - pedestals for statues - frames for paintings - stages for a ballet, etc... I would not directly subject a cat to the crowds at an art opening, and the times I've shown so far, they were quite content and calm in their TEMPORARY PROTECTIVE DISPLAYS.
Katey: It seems you get it at least somewhat, however, I would correct one point... The ArtCats are not art because art galleries are willing to show my work, galleries are EAGER to show my work because it is interesting art.
To answer your question, "US ArtCat 1: Baxter (B1m1)" was on display only for the opening (say eight hours), "ArtCat C5F1 (Callie)" was on display for less than 24 hours, etc. I leave the displays up after deinstallation with a photo of the ArtCat in situ for the duration of the show.
Big Gary: I would say cats are not performance artists, they are predatory carnivorous animals. Wanna know the real difference between a cat and a dog? If you're out in the wilderness with your 90 lb dog and you break your leg, he will bring you a rabbit to eat. In that same situation, if you were with your cat (who hypothetically, was also 90 lbs), she would eat you without a second thought. It's a hard idea to swallow, but it's true... Take it from someone who knows cats VERY well...
Posted by Dave Powell  on  Sat Dec 03, 2005  at  03:22 AM
JN: Indeed, the dwarf cats are hilarious at times. I own only one "pet" cat (i.e., neutered and not part of the ArtCat breeding program). His name is Cyddwin the Righteous, he is a hardcore dwarf, and he is adorable, grumpy, funny, and totally lovable all at the same time. He often makes me "shriek out-loud with laughter," but then again, I too, probably drink far too much coffee.
Maegan: Not all art in the gallery makes money, as my work is posted with a clear notice that the "piece" is held in the artist's collection (for breeding purposes).
Gallery/museum owners like my work because it's interesting and "a draw." It sparks animated conversation and always has a crowd mulling about it murmuring over their glasses of chardonnay.
As for it being "crap," it's funny you say that... Instead of a photo at one show, after I removed the ArtCat there was a big poop in the litterbox. The museum owner wanted it left there as "trace" (evidence art had happened there). I obliged... Thought it was funny and a great idea to boot.
Boo: I won't argue with you. The ArtCats are art and it is really neither here nor there what your opinion is on the matter (and in fact, my website has been {seemingly futilely} aimed at people with the views I've read here, not those who are educated regarding the ongoing discourse of art who would require no explanation and accept my work as art simply as a matter of course).
Either you post statements flippantly on the net regarding other people's serious, hard work without really considering what you are saying, or you are simply uninformed and closed-minded. Since you and Maegan had "stuff up in the gallery at the moment" as of this posting, I assume you are based in Tampa as well. I am also guessing there is a good chance you are a student at USF (where I taught art incidentally), or UT (where one of my best friends and fellow artists taught). In other words, what I am getting at, is perhaps opening your mind and asking questions of people who might be able to enlighten you (instead of blurting statements of questionable foundation) might serve you better in your art, your career, and life in general...
UNLESS of course you're a hottie (female), in which case... I totally agree with your insightful comments! Why don't you eMail me your phone number and perhaps we might discuss this and other subjects more in-depth over dinner?
And yes, I am a cat breeder (among other synonyms)... But don't knock my "whoop de do" until you've tried it. 😉
Maegan: I'd consider finding a new leader. Oh, and same goes for you regarding the dinner thing... If you meet MY aesthetic criteria, of course.
So there we have it ladies and gents... As you might guess, I get my share of critics, and have even posted a printed sample on my site. Never before have I answered any of them personally. So feel privileged, pissed-off, or indifferent as you will.
My best, and thanks for your interest, -Dave
Posted by Dave Powell  on  Sat Dec 03, 2005  at  03:24 AM
Art isn't whether a person is willing to buy it. There may be a few people with bad taste. Art is whether a large group of people are willing to stop and look and then stop and look from a different angle and can't get enough of what it is. That's art. And art speaks differently to different people so what is art to one is junk to another and vice versa. So, with all that defining of art, truly there is no definition. My best attempt is that someone is inspired in the hopes to inspire others. If it's not inspiring to anyone, it's not art but a feeble attempt to make money. Sometimes that works.
Posted by suzanna  on  Mon Sep 18, 2006  at  03:50 PM
So, with all that defining of art, truly there is no definition. My best attempt is that someone is inspired in the hopes to inspire others.
Posted by oil painting  on  Tue Jan 25, 2011  at  02:15 AM
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.