Meow! The cat gets its day at WAM
By Zac Martucelli
The age of the Internet has bestowed many advancements and tools of convenience. But the most popular byproduct of this boom in mass media consumption is, ostensibly, cats. Having inspired a plethora of creative online projects and videos, mixing cuteness with humor, pervading memes and mainstream popular culture, it is safe to say that cats posses a certain irresistible quality to them – a quality so inescapable that even the Worcester Art Museum has decided to dedicate an exhibition to this Internet favorite.
Indulge in the glory that is Meow: A Cat Inspired Exhibition at the Worcester Art Museum. This multi-program initiative explores not only the cat’s versatile nature as a meme with a questionable grasp on the English language, but also as a figure of iconic prominence throughout history. This juxtaposition between digital and traditional art offers an eclectic range of pieces to be experienced and analyzed fully, providing immense enjoyment in the process.
Inspiration for a project of this magnitude and content originated from the Worcester Art Museum’s mascot, Helmutt the Dog. “Helmutt got us thinking about art with animals,” said Adam Rozan, director of Audience and Engagement at the Worcester Art Museum. “Helmutt being a dog led us to start thinking more about cats – cat-rich collections, Egyptian art with cats, things like that. Those ideas eventually evolved into the multi-room exhibition that will be Meow.”
Rozan explained how a project of this extent is new to the Worcester Art Museum. “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.”
Perhaps one of the most unique features of this exhibit is the encouragement of audience and public participation. With so many projects, viewers will have the pleasure of experiencing local, original content, as well the museum’s existing collection of art, with cats as the central theme.
One of the more major elements of Meow is the exhibition, The Captivating Cat: Felines and the Artistic Gaze. Showcasing the museum’s already established collection as a foundation, this exhibit will examine the depiction of cats from ancient Egypt and China to contemporary times through a variety of mediums. Themes conveyed in these pieces include the cat as a metaphor for the modern artist, as well as connections between artists’ representations of large cats and house cats.
Additionally, Meow offers visitors the opportunity to embark on their own, self-guided “Cat Walk” Tour, which will shine light on works from the museum’s encyclopedic collections. Rozan also mentioned the inclusion of a contemporary piece featuring dozens of live cats come July. Alternatively, if you’re more of a dog-lover, Helmutt the Dog will be setting up his own anti-cat show in response to his feline foes’ encroachment on his territory.
Other highlights include, but are not limited to, a community cat show and a series of studio art classes and workshops that invite audiences to create pet toys, shelters and portraits.
So far, community response has been “fantastic,” according to Rozan. “People resonate with their animals. People also like seeing their own art and the art of their peers.” This sentiment rings especially true for Worcester, whose animal-friendly community is perfectly conducive to an exhibition of this sort.
Whether you are a cat enthusiast, a seasoned art veteran or both, be sure not to miss this incredibly original and fun exhibition at the Worcester Art Museum. Meow: A Cat Inspired Exhibition runs at the Worcester Art Museum, 55 Salisbury St., through Sept. 4.
For more information, visit worcesterart.org/exhibitions
Left: Egyptian, Eleventh Dynasty, Head of Cat, Bronze, Mrs. Kingsmill Marrs Collection
Center: Cornelis de Visscher, The Cat, 1657, Engraving on cream wove paper, Mrs. Kingsmill Marrs Collection
Right: Helen Hyde, A Mexican Coquette, 1912, Woodcut on cream Japan paper, Anonymous Gift