Thursday, June 16, 2011

How the pet portraits got started...

Technical difficulties have arisen. I have tried TWICE to upload an unintentionally hilarious video of me painting something I call a Santeria Cat Shrine while my cat, Smokey, supervises. No success either time, which I find crushing after my easy picture upload of last night.

Clearly, this picture of Smokey as my muse (along with Olivia the pig) is a marginally-related substitute. So I will just describe the video to you and ask you to exercise your imagination!

The video's not hilarious because of the painting or the cat. It's hilarious because the whole time, you can hear the cameraperson repeating, in a more and more disgruntled voice, "Look at the camera. LOOK AT THE CAMERA." Then you can hear me saying to Smokey (trying not to move my lips because there was a CAMERA on me, DUH, getting a nice profile shot), "Can't you HEAR HER? Smoke, you DUMMY! Look at the camera!"

Of course, it was really ME who was supposed to be looking at the camera the whole time. I look like an idiot and Smokey looks like the superior being that she is.

SUPERIOR being the operative word.

This brings me back to the Santeria Cat Shrines and how the pet portraits got started.

I unexpectedly acquired some raw materials that I needed to, as they say in the business world, "re-PURPOSE." They were a gift from somebody in the family, somebody we all love and who had apparently temporarily lost their mind, which is why this person remains nameless. But they were the type of gift, like chlamydia, or a ricochet regifting of the gift you regifted to someone else three years ago, that NOBODY REALLY WANTS.

They were hideous. They looked suspiciously like old cabinet doors that a three-year old had covered with ivory paint and crackle-coat, and had then finger-painted flowers on them. Big smudgy lilac flowers.

Even Gertrude Knox, the retired spinster teacher in Idaho Springs who babysat kids in the 70's and fed them things like canned peaches with Italian dressing for lunch (which is so bizarre that I can REMEMBER this fact even FORTY YEARS LATER and I was NOT one of the kids she babysat)... even Gertrude would have REFUSED to have these things in her house. They were THAT ugly.

We couldn't exactly get rid of them, for political reasons. But there was NO WAY we were hanging them on a wall. So we stashed them in a closet while I thought of a way to turn them into something more aesthetic. Finally I thought about making them into shrines for the cats. Not necessarily the whole sad memorial/ancestor-worship type of shrine that gets constructed post-mortem, but something showing my appreciation of the animal NOW. Something modern, but still showing this weird type of worshipful relationship that we tend to have with our cats.

Now dogs are all about YOU, the human.

I'm sorry to break this to you, but cats could REALLY NOT CARE LESS about YOUR personal needs. What they WANT is someone to WORSHIP them. Mindless minions to bring them fresh tuna every 15 minutes. Somebody who can turn on the laptop so they can WARM THEIR BUTTS ON IT and send weird updates to Facebook pages. A lackey with thumbs who can hold the door open for a half-hour or so while the cat deliberates about his options.

And finally, somebody to ADORE the artistry of the scratch-marks on the ITALIAN LEATHER COUCHES. I'm talking to YOU, here, Smokey. Every day that you keep your claws is a gift from God.

But my point was how the cat is the OVERLORD in that whole relationship, no matter how much the "owner" pretends that they have the upper hand. Anyhow, eventually I started thinking about this related to the Santeria religion and decided to modify the idea of a shrine so that it included cat-worship.

Plus, I could cover up those freaky lilac flowers with some bright paint. So I did, and the panels morphed into portraits of the animal in the center panel, surrounded by things the animal likes.

For instance, Windy, my feisty calico, LOVES paper clips and shiny things. Basically, anything that is non-edible (hair, potting soil, rocks) and, even better, makes a jingling sound when you bat it (earrings, paper clips, staples, safety pins, bottle caps, etc.) is fair game for Windy to first play soccer with, and then eat, providing she has not lost it under one of the Italian leather couches first.

So her portrait is surrounded with paper clips, glass beads, and earrings. (I used artistic license and decided to omit the hair and the potting soil.)

Smokey, on the other hand, adores a good water feature. Any time Jon or I enter the bathroom, Smokey pushes the door open and then leaps onto the sink. Then she insists that we turn the water on for her. Sometimes it's to actually drink, although more often, it's just for her to ADMIRE. Or to slap at the water drops so they shoot onto the mirror, just in case her minions need more practice with the Windex and paper towels.

So her portrait is surrounded by glass beads, painted to look like drops of water and bubbles, coming out of an actual TAP.

When Jon, my husband, saw these, he thought they were great! He thought a lot of people would like something like that. Probably not people who actually PRACTICE Santeria, and possibly not people who get offended at the idea of lightheartedly erecting a shrine to a cat! But still, a lot of people...

So that's how the pet portrait work got started. It's changed a bit from the Santeria shrines, but I still do those on special order!

Excuse me, but Smokey is insisting that it's time to sit on the laptop...aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaasssssssssssddddddddddddddfffffffffff

At least it's not my Facebook status!

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