Published: May 6, 2016
WORCESTER , MASS. — On May 21, the Worcester Art Museum (WAM) will open “Meow,” a cat-inspired exhibition, a multi-program initiative that explores the cat as both an iconic figure throughout art history and a pop culture, Internet-age phenomenon. The project, which runs through September 4, will feature exhibitions, special installations, interactive public programs and community engagement—all of which highlight the prolific role of the cat in creative endeavors from ancient sculpture to Nineteenth Century painting to contemporary fashion. Guest curated by scholars and artists, the dynamic mix of programs in Meow examines the relationship between the experience of art and our daily lives through active audience participation.
“Cats have given rise to a plethora of creative online projects, videos and memes that mix humor and artistry. While the Internet has allowed for viral consumption of the content, this phenomenon isn’t new,” said Adam Rozan, WAM’s director of audience engagement. “The playful and mischievous natures of cats have inspired artists for ages. ‘Meow’ is an opportunity to take this subject, which completely is of the moment, and explore how it relates to the experience of art, from ancient times to today. It’s an exciting, one-of-a-kind project connecting art, people, cats and popular culture in a way that makes learning about art fun for all ages.”
Among the major elements is the exhibition “The Captivating Cat: Felines and the Artist’s Gaze,” which will be open throughout the duration of the initiative. Featuring more than 70 works from the museum’s permanent collection, the exhibition looks at depictions of cats from ancient Egypt and China to the modern day through prints, drawings, photographs, paintings, sculpture, fashion and armor. Guest curated by Ruth Dibble, PhD candidate in the history of art at Yale University, this exhibition is organized around several major themes, including the cat as metaphor for the modern artist and connections in representations of big and house cats. It features works by Will Barnet, Albrecht Dürer, Takebe Ryotai, Toshi Yoshida and Harry Gordon, among many others.
Visitors will also be able to discover cats throughout other WAM galleries in a self-guided “Cat Walk” tour, which will shed new light on major works in the museum’s encyclopedic collections, including “Woman with a Cat” by Gustave Courbet, the Sixth Century Roman Worcester Hunt Mosaic and Seventeenth Century Tiger Screen by Kano Naonobu.
In addition, artist and critic Rhonda Lieberman will present a special contemporary art installation in partnership with the Worcester Animal Rescue League (WARL). Part “purr-formance piece,” part social sculpture, the Cats-in-Residence program integrates art and rescue to address animal overpopulation in urban areas. Local “purr-formers” (adoptable rescue cats from WARL) will interact in an inter-species lounge filled with art for humans and cats to enjoy together.
Volunteers will be on site to facilitate adoptions when a cat and human visitor bond. The installation will be open during regular museum hours between July 11 and September 4. Merging art and life, the Cats-in-Residence Program invites playful fun while drawing attention to an important cause. WAM will be the fourth location for Lieberman’s installation, which was previously shown in New York City, Los Angeles and Hartford, Conn., and the first in a museum.
The Worcester Art Museum is at 55 Salisbury Street. For information, 508-799-4406 or worcesterart.org.
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