P Buckley Moss Blog – What you may have forgotten about P. Buckley Moss cats
What You Have Forgotten about P. Buckley Moss II – The Joy of Moss Cats
You see them behind wicker baskets or around the hem of a skirt or a pant leg. They climb around on a Patriotic Pumpkin Stack or sit inside the classroom with children in Golden Rule Days. They get in trouble playing cards during Our Night Out. When they aren’t dressed like Red Hat ladies, they even find time to pull Santa’s sleigh for a Purrfect Delivery. However they appear, these wacky, funny, stylized black cats are always facing you, the viewer. This is not an accidental placement but a deliberate attempt by the artist to use the stylized black cat in a myriad of ways visually and symbolically.
Oh they’re cute and funny, sometimes quiet and nearly hidden, or are caught doing something outrageous, but the cats are more than what they appear to be; they are symbols, visual allegories with hidden messages used to promote ideas or qualities. Despite their blithe appearance Pat’s cats have roots that run deep into the history of art. We take for granted the ease with which our printers and copiers produce an image or document as if by magic. We forget that this technology did not always exist and that in the early history of humankind people had to create objects by hand with the materials that they had to make what they needed including paint, paper and even the materials used for book binding.
Imagine a monk or a scribe hunched over a handmade parcel of paper by candlelight writing passages into manuscripts that were one-of-a-kind. Even before the printing press, illuminated manuscripts were created to convert the heathen to Christianity. It was with the introduction of the Lindesfarne Gospels (698 A.D.) and the Book of Kells (780 A.D.) that stylized drawings were adopted into these works of art and used to decorate the margins and pages of these unique manmade books. These stylized drawings of animals, dragons and made-up creatures were used to represent the artist. These images were signatures, considered a symbol of humility in the sight of God, as it was created with an image rather than a written word. These fantastical images were called drolleries.
In our modern, chaotic world of fast, fast, fast we forget that there was once artistry in both art and the written word created by human beings. Until 1200 A.D. the church monasteries were the only way of obtaining these grand literary and artistic works. As time wore on the drollery became more and more grotesques, appearing at the end of lines to convey humor. By the 14th century the drollery was used in every manuscript and eventually with the advent of the printing press the use of the drollery declined. Later artists such Aubrey Beardsley or the better known Hieronymus Bosch began to paint similar bizarre or comical figures. Even the contemporary, late Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) could be included in this style of painting. Pat began painting her black cats to get her daughter Ginny to go to school. She would promise to have the cat painted by the time the child came home. The cats began to appear in Pat’s painting, quietly at first, black, stylized, without “eyes” but always looking at the viewer. They would appear with a couple in a “portrait” or maybe in a barn raising scene in one of her Valley Style images. The cats were not overlooked by collectors, becoming favorite images with many. Over time the cats, like Kris Kringle or the little fledgling, began to take on characters of their own. The little stylized black cats became for Pat a signature, the way of putting herself within the image, always looking at those viewing her work. This “extra” subtle signature has become one of her iconic images, so much so that some collectors prefer to collect only the cats.
It is quite a problem, however, when a couple wants to purchase and perhaps he likes the drolleries, but she likes the realistic looking cats so what do to then? Pat’s most famous and highly sought after cat, Cinders, might be the answer but has long been sold out, or perhaps the more recent Turquoise Treasure. If all else fails, do not think that this versatile artist cannot paint the cat that is realistically or expressionistically rendered because she is artistically capable of it. If you have lost your best feline friend or you are looking for a pet you don’t have to feed or change a litter box for, then Perfect Pet or Perfect Tabby may be for you.
As with many of Pat’s images, Purrfect Tabby was a cat that belonged to one of her collectors. Pat painted the cat, whose name was Eddie, not only for the collectors that owned him but for all of the collectors whose grey tabbies fill a soft spot in the heart.
Images available at Canada Goose Gallery, in Waynesville, Ohio 513-897-4348