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Collections Cross Section: Cats

April 1, 2022 - June 4, 2022

Museums hold in their collections vast numbers of artworks and objects that rarely go on display. On average, museums only exhibit about five percent of their collection at any given time, and Plains Art Museum typically exhibits even less than five percent of the artwork it holds. The Collection Cross Section series of exhibitions examines simple, well-represented themes within the collection and presents these artworks in a straightforward manner with the goal of increasing the exposure of the collection itself.

A quick review of the collection revealed that cats are very well represented in artwork at Plains Art Museum. Why is this? There is no specific reason, but art regularly reflects our everyday lives and experiences, and cats have maintained a steady presence in human lives for thousands of years. Throughout human history cats have been viewed as deities and demons, companions and predators, muses and symbols of power. In more recent history images of cats have helped launch memes and fill social media accounts.

Artists through history have used images of cats as both subjects and symbols, with their meanings changing over cultures and time. During the Renaissance, cats in art were seen as suspicious, and could represent betrayal, deceit, or even the devil. This changed when cats became further domesticated in the 17th and 18th centuries and were later depicted in art as companions. Research has revealed that cats may have domesticated themselves, realizing that coexisting with humans would be beneficial. This was likely the beginning of an important bond between humans and felines that artists still strive to represent. This fascination can be seen in the cat images here at Plains Art Museum. From massive tigers to whimsical kittens, the diverse imagery shows that cats play many roles for humans today. Today, cats in art remain symbols of power and prestige, mischief and curiosity, or they can play the part of a voyeur, either within the artwork, or into the lives of the viewers themselves.

Plains Art Museum thanks our generous members and donors for their support. Additional support provided by the McKnight Foundation, the Bush Foundation, the Arts Partnership, the FUNd at Plains Art Museum and the North Dakota Council on the Arts, which receives funds from the North Dakota Legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts.
left to right: Fritz Scholder, Portrait of a Cat #1, 1979, Monoprint, 23 3/4 x 17 3/4 in. Purchased with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts • Marlene Gharbo Linderman, Cat Stalker, 1985, Monoprint, 22 3/4 x 17 3/4, Gift of the artist • Fredrick B. Scheel, Untitled (lion in the wild), n.d., Silver gelatin print, 7 7/8 x 9 3/4 in. Gift of Frederick B. Scheel and the Scheel family • Steve Nowatzki, Negative Space: Leopard, 1999, Lithograph on Somerset satin white paper, 20 10 1/2 in. Gift of the artist • Terry McLarnan, Untitled (Cat), 1981, Silver gelatin print, 16 x 20 in. Gift from Rod and Virginia McLarnan

Ongoing Exhibitions

No Time For Despair

Ongoing
No Time For Despair

To say that right now is the ideal time to make art that speaks directly to the people about social justice is an understatement. Because the very nature of art is to undertake or assume the role of a healer by shading light on the human condition.

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City Geode

Ongoing
City Geode
S.P.A.C.E. Sculpture

City Geode, created and installed in May 2019 by students and Professor Josh Zeis from NDSU is the latest creation. In response to the work, the lead artists said, “What is a city? This City Geode incorporates many of the things that we thought a city needs; buildings, streets, electricity, drainage, and above all else, the human spirit.

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Bee in Flight

Ongoing
Bee in Flight

Community artist and school art teacher MeLissa Kossick, who guides youth classes at the Museum on art, gardens, and pollinators, has created an enchanting mosaic design in the Creativity Pathway in the Serkland Gallery called Bee in Flight.

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The North Dakota Mural

Ongoing
The North Dakota Mural

Drawing on his childhood memories of the Great Plains, he created a work that speaks to the wide open spaces, huge vistas, and ocean-like skies of the region.

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Fragile Preservation

Ongoing
Fragile Preservation
A Tallgrass Community

While the Tallgrass Prairie is a community made up of a great diversity of species, Fragile Preservation represents a selection of them.

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