17 February 2009

Existential German Kitten Earnestly Considering What It Means To Be Good.

Karen Lillis is writer who currently lives in Pittsburgh, but from what I understand, she has lived almost everywhere. I've just read her recently published novel The Second Elizabeth which is a beautiful piece of writing. It reads like long, rhythmic prose poem and is incredibly introspective and a little hypnotizing.
Karen Lillis is also the person who gave me the term "Paint-on-Demand" which is what I'm using these days when describing this blog. I love it. It's to the point and ridiculous.
I wanted to make a painting for Karen. I emailed and suggested she close her eyes and think of what she wants to see and to not over think it. In about two minutes I got and email back that simply said, "Kitten being good".
That's not what I expected from an experimental writer. But it did make me think about how cute kittens are always depicted as being mischievous. Actually, cute everything. Mischievous is cute when it's not on your watch.
My Aunt Katina had a picture hanging in her kitchen of about a ten year old boy hiding in a doorway sneaking a cigarette. The boy had big eyes and it was painted in soft colors. This is one of the few things I remember about her apartment in Athens where my family visited her when I was a preteen. Kids smoking was cute in Greece in the 1980's. Cats destroying screen doors and and knocking over food is cute to Americans always.
So, how does a kitten be "good"? My only real answer was "use the litter box". By strange coincidence, my family adopted a large long haired cat this week (someone told me he is a Maine Coon?) and my greatest hope for him was that he knew where to put his poop. Luckily, he did.
I started this painting as a more straight forward cute cat picture with pastely colors and soft lines like the Greek smoking boy. It looked like something you might find in the bric-a-brack section of the Salvation Army that was made by Hallmark decades ago. Unhappy with that, I sabotaged it the next day and gave it a German Expressionist edge. I made it harsher with stronger colors and sharp unusual angles and took away some compositional elements to make the room emptier. In this version, the cat seems to be having some existential woes. Maybe he himself is contemplating what "being good" means.
Here is a link to where Karen Lillis' The Second Elizabeth can be found.
-or for more Lillis info-


Karen Lillis said...

I love it!! I can't wait to hang it at cat-eye-level as an instructional image, sort of like the "Choking Victim" posters in NY restaurants. I live with 2 very bad cats. "Kitten being good" is like a zen conundrum in my world. You rose to the challenge, you painted that-which-does-not-exist!

Karen Lillis said...

There's no "a" in the conundrum, that's very important. Just "kitten being good."

B said...

It looks like Annabelle Lee's long-lost cat.

Karen Lillis said...

My blog reply to this post is here: http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendId=127839259&blogId=471770463

Karen Lillis said...

Try it with a live link: http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendId=127839259&blogId=471770463

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