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Our Lady of Compassion (work in progress)

Based on the widely accepted notion among cat lovers (myself among them) that our cats provide us with comfort in challenging times, this almost 2 meter tall piece of work in progress incorporates hand embroidered excerpts of emotive and lyrical text provided to me after a call for quotes on social media.

The writing describes in many different voices how much we gain from the felines in our lives; mentioned in almost every quote I received were references about cats’ peaceful nature and air of wisdom, and the sense of love, joy, comfort and relaxation we gain from watching and stroking our pet cats.

Many felt that their cats have an innate ability to sense when we are in need of their company and love.

In sharp contrast to this idea of the all-understanding, caring and selfless feline companion, recent research by psychologists Moriah Galvan and Jennifer Vonk at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan shows that cats were “more likely to rub their owners’ legs, purr at them and jump on their laps when the owner was smiling compared when with they were frowning. This suggests that when we need some TLC your cat is more likely to give you a wide berth”.

At the heart of this mixed message is our tendency to anthropomorphize (to attribute human traits, emotions, and intentions to non-human entities, considered to be an innate tendency of human psychology). In religion and mythology, anthropomorphism refers to the perception of divine qualities in human beings or of human qualities in animals. Anthropomorphism is also a well established literary device from ancient times, employing anthropomorphized animals to illustrate principles of life.

This piece in progress plays with the idea of putting our cats on pedestal and worshipping human or even god-like traits they may not actually possess. Whilst it may be in our human nature to project such life-affirming qualities, at heart our pet cats remain animals with wild instincts, who hunt and kill without much distinction.

Our Lady of Compassion is tall so you have to look up at her, adding to the feeling of worship. Her expression is unfathomable and her embroidered dress will slowly be laden by a layer of felted bird corpses. I have been working on this piece on and off since the beginning of this year. She will continue to grow and other layers will be added over the coming months/years.

Our Lady of Compassion1

cat lady 3

dead birds 2

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