Though this is Michals' first gallery show, the lineup is impressive. That's partly because of the subject matter (cats, duh). And partly it's Michals. Over the years, she has cultivated good relationships with artists and gallerists. Many of the artists in the show are ones she's interviewed. One reason she's a journalist is to "make cool friendships." It was, she decided, "time to capitalize on those friendships.""Once Tracey Emin and Ray Caesar confirmed, immediately, we had 40 artists who also confirmed. Then, I went to Shepard," she says, meaning Shepard Fairey. "He's allergic, but he loves cats." By summer's end, she had 77 artists.
"It felt like kismet," she says. "I went with artists not just that I knew but ones whose work I admire."
The artists she chose aren't necessarily "cat artists" per se, a decision that met with dismay among a certain faction of feline creatives. More than one angry Facebook message popped into her mailbox. "Not including me is like having a Cubism show and not including Picasso," one guy wrote.
"I have been painting cats exclusively for my 30 years as a professional artist in L.A.," seethed another. "But I suppose that doesn't matter to you ... in your art-world citadel."
"I'm sorry," she says now. "But curating a show is my discretion. Stylistically, aesthetically. I was disappointed that these gentlemen did not have a little more couth."
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She pulls up images of the artwork on her phone. Caesar, considered the grandfather of digital art, contributed an artist's proof of one of his trademark creepy girls with large foreheads. She's in an elegant, blue dress holding a yowling tabby cat in her hands. "He's collected by Madonna and the Hearst family," Michals purrs. "He's in the Guggenheim."
Mattia Biagi contributed a sculpture of a black cat riding a Roomba (it will roll around the gallery). Rob Reger, creator of Emily the Strange, contributed a square piece entitled "40 Cats in 4 Directions." It spins on the wall. "Any way you look at it, there will be a cat that's upright."
Misako Inaoka made a double-headed cat sculpture, flanked by two kinetic mice. "They chirp when you walk by. We'll have to rope those off somehow so people don't step on them."Michals flicks the cellphone screen to bring up another image - a long, black obelisk of a window with a gray cat perched at the bottom. "This one is Christian Furr. He was the youngest artist ever to paint Queen Elizabeth. His cat's name is Mr. Chunky."