Seeing Cats and Dogs

With the new year rolling in earnest, it was time to take down Danse Macabre in Spring River Gallery. The gallery called for something more light and colorful in nature, so we installed Seeing Cats and Dogs, a show that's, well, all about pets. More specifically, cats and dogs, as we don't have representations of parakeets, fish, or hamsters in our collection. 

At least, not yet.

Interesting aside: hamsters didn't become popular as pets in the United States until the 1960s. But I digress. Here are some pictures from the gallery.


This show was inspired by the prevalence of pets in today's world. Let's admit it, they're everywhere. They star in online videos, inspire memes, and spur on a thriving pet-related industry that encompasses everything from specialty food to toys. How many times now have we seen that grinning Russian blue cheerfully asking whether he can have a cheeseburger? 

And why it is a cheeseburger anyway? Why not pizza, filet mignon, or swordfish steak?

canhas.jpg (205×300)
Sure, you can have a cheeseburger, just don't bring it into the Museum.
Anyway, pets are all over the place. We dress them in costumes, advocate for their rights, and praise their abilities as service and therapeutic animals. There's no shortage of them in television shows and movies, from Lassie to The Three Lives of Thomasina, and more recently, Beverly Hills Chihuahua and Grumpy's Worst Christmas Ever. Every other week there's some new pet star rocking the internet with its antics, whether it's 'Lil Bubdogs eating with human hands, or hamsters devouring miniature burritos

Our animal companions, in other words, are a prominent part of daily life. Yet there's more to it than that. The bonds we share with pets can connect us to other people, encouraging conversation, camaraderie, and even rivalry. Even if we don't own a pet ourselves, chances are we know someone who does. At some point each of us has an animal story to share, even if it's to rail about the incessant barking of the neighbor's dog or the wandering tom. Personally, I've noticed that since adopting Gustave, he peppers my small talk with casual acquaintances with great frequency, which in turn leads to stories from my listeners. 

In my opinion, pets are the universal subject for conversation, right up there with the weather.

This was, in essence, what inspired Seeing Cats and Dogs. We see pets everywhere, including the RMAC collection, so I decided to pull them together and create a show.

Here are some of the works you'll see.

Mabel Dwight, The Family, 1928, lithograph on paper. Image courtesy of the Roswell Museum and Art Center.

Mabel Dwight achieved renowned during the first half of the 20th century for her lithographs that often depicted contemporary life in a humorous, sympathetic life. A lot of her scenes focus on people visiting places such as aquariums, zoos, and theatres, but she also did a few cat scenes such as this one.

Agnes Tait, The Aristocrat, 1936, lithograph on paper. Images courtesy of the Roswell Museum and Art Center.
The languid pose of this Siamese really sums up the title, doesn't it? And really, what cat hasn't posed in such a regal, nonchalant manner? 

As an aside, Siamese cats were first imported to the United States during the late nineteenth century from Thailand, formerly known as Siam until 1949. Popular legend claims that Siamese cats are descended from sacred temple cats, which may be one reason why artist Agnes Tait included a Buddha-like figure in the background of this print. Nowadays the cat in this print, with its relatively rounded face, would probably be considered a Classic Siamese or a Thai. Beginning in the 1960s breeders have been developing Siamese with more elongated features, resulting in the slim, pointy-looking Siamese cats we so often see today.

I spend way too much time reading about cats.

Howard Cook, Untitled (Blackie Series), 1957, charcoal on paper. Image courtesy of the Roswell Museum and Art Center.
Blackie was a little dog that belonged to Howard Cook, and he was the subject of a whole series of these delightful charcoal sketches. Cook also owned Blackie's father, Pedro, who also appeared in the artist's work occasionally.

Diane Marsh, Untitled, 1981, oil on linen. Image courtesy of the Roswell Museum and Art Center.
This painting is actually quite large, about 6' square. Diane Marsh was a Roswell Artist-in-Resident, and remains a part of the Roswell artistic community.

Roy De Forest, Untitled, 1978, color lithograph on paper. Image courtesy of the Roswell Museum and Art Center.
Roy De Forest taught at the University of California, Davis. From what I've read, he greatly enjoyed dogs, and owned at least two at any particular time.

This show was a fun exhibit to put together, and my hope is that visitors will have a good time with it as well. If you're in the area then, and you love animals, art, or both, be sure to stop in and check it out!