The art of the cat

by Reina Cowan

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Cat artwork by Gwendolyn Best

Looks like the cat dragged in some beautiful art!

CATS R US boutique is featuring a selection of “cat art” by several Ottawa-Gatineau artists.

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Art by Stéphanie Leblanc

CATS R US has been a fixture in the Glebe since 2009, selling cat-themed accessories as well as cat toys, food and other goods. Store owner Anne Woolley said for the past five years or so she has been displaying cat art in her Bank Street near Fifth Avenue boutique.

The most recent crop of artists whose works are on display includes Glebe-based painters Bhat Boy and Gwendolyn Best along with Gatineau’s Stéphanie Leblanc.

“Their ability to paint cats was definitely a drawing attraction,” said Woolley.

Bhat Boy, Best and Leblanc all bring unique art styles to the table and there is something for every cat lover or art collector to appreciate. Woolley said customers are often amused and interested by the cat art. Tourists and store regulars alike are drawn to the idea of seeing their furry friends represented in colourful paintings.

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Cat art by Bhat Boy

“The reaction’s very positive,” said Woolley. A piece by Bhat Boy, for example, drew audiences to engage with the work directly. “He had a piece of artwork that had probably a dozen different cats, and so people would stand there and count the cats in it. It was quite comical to see people counting, trying to figure out if they got all 12 or 10, or whatever the amount was,” said Woolley.

And similar to buying cats themselves, Woolley says customer connection with a particular piece of cat art is often immediate.

“We have people come in that just are drawn to a painting and say ‘I want that, I have to have it now,’ and will buy it right away,” she said. “We get a lot of people just seeming to know what they want, just dashing in.”

Best explains her fascination with cats this way: “I do love cats but I paint more the idea of cat – the way they watch and move. My cats look at the viewer, they interact. We are not looking on them as an object.” Even though her cats are not specific ones (more the idea of cat), when she meets people at Orange Gallery where her works are displayed, she hears many stories about individual cats. “I like black cats in particular,” she says. “With other cats, you see the beautiful fur, but with black cats, you see the shape, the movement, the gesture of the cat.”

Reina Cowan is a third-year Carleton journalism student and long-time resident of Old Ottawa South.

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