I have completed 4 Cat Dinner / Party paintings and am working on the fifth. This is not something I do often – I usually create one-off images which are either major works or studies for major works. If I do readdress a painting or a concept, it is usually no more than once or twice, and usually over the span of years. However, I am enjoying this series of cats, and only now, while working on the fifth painting (which is a 5×5), am I beginning to realize the meaning of what I am doing.
The idea itself was given to me by the Canadian figure skating champion and painter, Toller Cranston. We have grown quite friendly over the last two years, and about two months ago, he came over to my studio and invited me out to lunch. Somehow the idea of cat dinner party paintings came up, and I was immediately able to visualize it in my mind. Later that week, I got a 4×4 canvas, drew in a sketch, and began the first of the paintings. That painting was soon bought by one of the first people who ever saw it, and now hangs as a part of an important collection in the front room of house that used to belong to the Canadian painter, Marion Perlet.
Anyway, this first painting was elegant, nice, but simple and perhaps the environment reflects my own house. The new painting I am making is more inspired by Toller Cranston’s extravagant parties, and as I was looking at it, I understood that these paintings would not have been possible without Toller’s influence. They reflect the luxury and the spirit of Toller’s dinner parties and are windows into the world of the upper class, and thus naturally appeal to the upper class. The fact that the actors are cats and not humans makes light of the situation and puts a humorous spin on it. The reason I painted cats and not dogs or monkeys is because cats have the highest self esteem of all pets, and are a symbol of luxury.
In a way, I guess I feel that all of us are unworthy of luxurious dinner parties, just as cats are unworthy of sitting at dinner tables. I did not not come from high society, but it has been a blessing for me to be allowed into Toller’s inner circle, and these paintings reflect my feelings in the best way I know how.