Cats in the yard

  • 2011-01-27
  • By Sam Logger

CAT RULES: An old English proverb says that cats consider everything they see as their own.

RIGA - Cats have always embraced different faces, from the artifice to the guarding. And these faces are reflected in various ways in the artistry of the world, be it literature or music. Now it’s time for this art – the Latvian National Museum of Art presents a new exhibition, called ‘Minka Nak!’ (The Pussy Cat Is Coming!), where the main role is given to the image of the cat in Latvian art.

There are millions of people in the world with a cat as their beloved pet at home. The dog may be man’s best friend, but the cat’s grace, confidence and pride have definitely outdone dogs in the fight for superiority in the person’s backyard. What makes the cat look so attractive? The ability to rule the situation is the first thing that comes to mind. Indeed, there is no other animal that has been habituated with  people, that can be more imperious than a cat. No wonder that an English proverb states that ‘in a cat’s eye, all things belong to cats.’ And funnily enough – no animal can be more humble at the same time than a cat. Does it not make him a magnificent player? Obviously!

Thus the year 2011, which passes in the sign of a cat, is a perfect way for how to praise it once again. The museum, which holds tens of paintings, graphics and sculptural work of a cat’s impersonation, offers the possibility to note the diversity of cats’ adoration, which may surprise those who think that cats are solely sweet and unprotected pets. The cat is probably the most contradictory sign in symbolism, and therefore they are so captivating. The visitors will take a journey through Latvian cat art by the creative works of Hilda Vika, Gederts Eliass, Alberts Kronenbergs, Olgerts Abelite, Janis Zarins and many more.

When you enter the exhibition hall the first impression is astonishment – the room seems to be too small to glorify the cat. The first impression is deceptive, though. As soon as you walk around the hall, the cat is the only ruler of the exhibition. Why? Because we – the people – see the resemblance of the cat’s nature in our own nature, in a big way! Have you ever thought of a cat as an equal character to yourself? Well, this is what the cats think of us – and that’s only the nicest version. In the real world cats are ready to be treated as gods. Some do get this chance, some not. This is where this resemblance is so tight.

We often forget the environment around us, which makes us the people we are or try to be. There are people who live in cozy houses, but we also notice humans who live on the streets... There are people who are surrounded by love, but many people have never realized what love is... This exhibition shows that sometimes we have to look with other’s eyes to see ourselves.
There is something arcane and magical in the watchful, focused look of a cat, says Vineta Skalberga, curator of Latvian sculpture and collections at the museum.

This is why people get fascinated by the cat’s mythological role through the centuries; this is why the cat symbolizes both the good and the bad, and there is no universal understanding as to what makes this animal be torn between the worlds of light and dark. Latvians say that there’s a cat’s nature to express that it is almost impossible to foresee one’s actions. However, the cat is an amazing teacher, and people really do learn from one – to keep fighting despite difficulties, to keep smiling despite the tears and keep living despite wanting to hold our heads low. The cat owns the energy, which some call healing, but some – simply believing.

The exhibition is open till Feb. 27.