About the exhibition
Most of the earliest artwork made by humans depicts non-human animals. France’s Chauvet Cave houses ochre representations of cave lions, ancient aurochs, and even mammoths that date back nearly thirty millennia. It seems we humans have always looked to other species when seeking inspiration or needing to express certain parts of ourselves. That urge has proven to be older than language, countries, money, and nearly everything but music and fire.
This week, I perused NIAD’s deep online catalogue with three of my favorite creatures lounging nearby: Columbo, Spooner, and Q--my housemates, who happen to be cats. This trio is a far cry from any cave lion, but they are without fail the most artful component of my home. Each one is well-composed and eye-catching, but is also no stranger to brutalism. They pose like odalisques and then jet into the night with an abstract flash. I could stop writing about everything else and focus only on their antics for the rest of my life and never run short of inspiration.
So here are eleven cats from NIAD’s holdings, in honor of the (literally) timeless human tradition of depicting the nearby animals that fascinate us, with a particular focus on the species of animal that fascinates me the most.
About the selector
Elena Passarello’s essays have recently appeared in National Geographic, Paris Review, and Best American Science and Nature Writing. She is the author of two award-winning collections, Let Me Clear My Throat and Animals Strike Curious Poses, the latter of which has been translated into four languages. In 2019, Outside named Elena one of “25 Essential Women Authors Writing About the Wild.” A 2015 recipient of the Whiting Award in nonfiction, she teaches in the MFA program at Oregon State University, and can be heard weekly on the radio in the PRX arts and culture show LiveWire!
The entire exhibition