“What if you had an (almost) unlimited budget and unfettered desire to surround yourself with furniture, clothing, art, household objects, books, and pretty much everything else in various semblances of cattitude? You would have caticons,” opines Sandy Lerner on the book jacket of her latest literary endeavor. “Welcome to my thirty-year odyssey probing the corners of the art world, catalogues, foreign shores, and cyberspace, all in search of the one Cat Thing I did not have.” She continues, “This book chronicles that journey, a catwalk of 4,000 years of Art Imitating Cats and the ways in which humans have expressed their love of and appreciation for all things feline.”
Caticons is not just another coffee-table book of pretty pictures. It is an intimate and very personal glimpse into a unique and wonderful—but highly specific—journey that spans four millennia, five continents, and virtually every genre of decorative arts. Even for those who are not avid cat lovers, the book is riveting in the scope and breadth of the collection that has been amassed and the history and explanation behind each example, curated with both care and humor. The collection includes works by such as Picasso, Matisse, Giacometti, Fragonard, Manet, Fabergé, Tiffany, Lanvin and many others makers who surprise and delight the reader.
Within the 300 pages of gorgeous photography, Lerner brings us into a world that includes items such as a Hittite ceremonial cup with cat’s face made of earthenware from 1700 BC to works of the current century along with a little history, some prose and poetry, and much love. There are paintings, sketches, jewelry, books, screenplays, clothing, furniture, ceramics, china, porcelain, earthenware, bronzes, sewing articles and housewares—even a cat Tarot, a German chess set with cat playing-pieces, and a truly beautiful and bizarre citrus-reamer. Interspersed throughout the book are tributes to cats by renowned people from all aspects of life—historians, artists, authors, poets, philosophers, photographers, entrepreneurs and others Lerner has come across during her 30 years of collecting.
Lerner may be best known for her co-founding of Cisco Systems, Urban Decay, promoting animal welfare and, latterly, her decades of certified organic, humane and predator-friendly farming and agricultural enterprises: Ayrshire Farm and Gentle Harvest; her work within the animal welfare community is equally well-respected.
Lerner explained, “This book documents a very personal collection, one originally began as a catholicon for my congenital need to live with cats, during a catless hiatus caused by living with my new husband, an individual allergic to the entire family of Mammalia.” She continued, “Unlike some collectors who either follow trends or believe they are prophets in the art market, I have collected simply on the catholicity of (1) is it a cat, and (2) do I like it? Therefore, there are no images of unhappy cats, unlucky cats or even unsociable cats. ‘My cats’ are happy, healthy, and loved, in art as in life.”
There are many poems and apposite quotes throughout the book but Louis Camuti’s dictum opposite Andy Warhol’s “Sam” seems to sum up not only Caticons but Lerner’s approach to life: “Cat people are different, to the extent that they generally are not conformists. How can they be with a cat running their lives?” Combining art, history, humor, and beauty, Lerner gives us all a reason to consider the family cat(s) with a renewed appreciation.
Caticons is available online at www.caticons.info and at select museum shops, e-tailers, and cat fancy sites.