It’s a love affair almost ten millennia running: between homo sapiens and felis catus, between us humans and our feline friends, domestic cats. The group show "Nine Lives," at Fortnight Institute, is a love letter to our furry familiars, illuminating the many facets of cat-ness, from their cuddliness to their spitefulness.
The individual elements of cat-ness are reflected—or, should we say, refracted—in these works. The cat as a cuddly companion is seen in Jessica Alazraki’s Boy with Cat (2021), in which a white cat is helpless but agreeable hostage, held by the diaphragm by a wide-eyed young boy. The lithe, feminine facet, which finds popular expression in such phenomena as Catwoman, is seen in Chioma Ebinama’s Sumi ink on Indian cotton rag paper work, could you really love me as I am (2021), in which a svelte anthropomorphic cat stretches seductively before its bloody prey. The more explicitly cunning or evil aspects of cats, in turn, are visible in Mike Ousley’s Backwoods Cult (2021), where they gather beside a bonfire under a crescent moon.
Despite the range of felinity on display, nearly all works attest to the special joy of being chosen by a creature so aloof, so unworldly, so strange. In Shanique Emelife’s Creature Comforts (2021), for instance, as their human reads in an armchair in the background, one cat splays out upon a poof while another paws at the window behind; the final one sits haughtily atop a coffee table, one paw dipped into a mug of coffee.
Hadi Fallahpisheh, Persian Cat, 2020. Ceramic, glaze, 8 x 9 x 17 inches. Courtesy Fortnight Institute, New York.