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Why Paint Cats: The Ethics of Feline Aesthetics [Paperback]

Burton Silver , Heather Busch
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Aug. 8 2002
Why did a woman in California pay an artist $5,000 to paint her cat to look like a pig? What made a New York stockbroker spend even more than that to have the image of Charlie Chaplin painted on his cat'¬?s posterior? WHY PAINT CATS reveals that, far from being an amusement for the idle rich, this seemingly aberrant behavior is part of a new art movement that claims to promote a better understanding of the cats in our lives. Following the international success of their previous collaboration of feline aesthetics, WHY CATS PAINT, Burton Silver and Heather Busch turn their scholarly attention to the cat as canvas. The authors detail all the latest trends in the movement, including the highly controversial Retromingent Expressionism, drawing conclusions that will provoke and amuse, startle, and enlighten. Exhaustively researched and lavishly illustrated, this insightful and engaging book raises important ethical questions and explores the rights of pet owners to reinvent their cats in the name of art.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

While the popular and enduring Why Cats Paint (1994) profiled the creative output of house pets, highlighting tabbies and Persian long-hairs with smeary abstract canvases they ostensibly made, the authors' latest volume inverts the paradigm, and offers instead the cat-as-canvas. Rexes and Siamese sport rainbow colors on their faces and flanks or graphic designs on their hindquarters: cats are transformed into butterflies, or clowns, or furry American flags. Presented as the document of a developing art movement, the book features a potpourri of artists and their "schools" (Neo-Totemism, Semiotic Anthropomorphism, Avant Funk), pairing big photographs with faux-interpretive essays about each cat and artist. Perhaps the most amazing entry is a portrait of Charlie Chaplin, supposedly painted with peroxide and vegetable dye on the rear end of a ginger and white cat named Burger. Amusing as a novelty item if nothing else (and very amusing at that), the book also offers a gentle kick in the pants to the gods of art criticism: a cat painted like a fish, for example, succeeds in "redefining and blurring the relationship between fur and scale, fin and tail, in order to create a shared intent that transubstantiates the species and repositions the notion of symbiosis." It's all so weird that it's sort of irresistible.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.


“You'¬?d think a person would have better things to do with $5,000 than to have her cat painted to look like a pig. . . . I personally appreciate feline beauty without a brush, but for the person who has every art book, my bet is they don'¬?t have one showcasing cats as canvases.” — Atlanta Journal-Constitution “I would not paint a cat if someone paid me to do so. I would not paint a cat if Picasso rose from the grave and taught me how. If a cat represented the last piece of canvas on earth, I still would not paint that cat. I just know better. Sadly some people do not. . . . I'¬?m pretty sure it'¬?s not a hoax.” — Jackson Clarion-Ledger“Suggests itself both as art and an art. Who am I to kibble?” — San Francisco Chronicle“Painted cats transform into art with a purrpuss.”— Las Vegas Review Journal“By the time you finish flipping through WHY PAINT CATS, the latest art-book collaboration by writer Burton Silver and photographer Heather Busch, you'¬?ll have more questions than answers. Seeing Charlie Chaplin'¬?s face painted on a cat’s rump has that effect.”—Heather McKinnon, Seattle Times“It felt wrong. I was appalled. Then I began to flip through the book, and was knocked back on my heels by the beauty of (some) of the works of art. A question I'¬?d never considered nestled in my brain:
Why not paint cats?”—San Diego Union Tribune “Kitty Porn . . . What a little tramp! . . . Always wanted to paint your cat like an alien but never had the balls to try?”—Maxim magazine

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Keep this book away from children! Feb. 16 2004
With a couple of minor reservations, I recommend this book as an excellent introduction to the subject of cat-painting. While the text is a little over-serious at times, the superb full-page photos make the book well worth its price. In fact I know of no other book which so lavishly illustrates so many different styles of this specialized art form. However, in some ways the book could be deleterious to the cat-painting fraternity by over-popularizing this rather arcane subject and encouraging ill-equipped amateurs to try their hands; definitely keep this book away from children.
As a veterinarian, I am concerned that the authors did not place enough emphasis on the use of special non-toxic dyes and bleaches. Paint in the conventional sense should never be used and could definitely prove harmful, partly because of the cat's grooming habits, partly because cats are especially susceptible to the toxic effects of paint-removers like turpentine. Even the low-toxicity paints sold for use by children should be avoided.
A little more history of the subject would be welcome; perhaps this is planned for a second edition. As so often with the cat fancy, no mention is made of the dog-world. [Supposedly, the original inspiration for cat-painting came from those dalmatian breeders who paint extra spots on their dogs before shows.]
Highly recommended!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very funny book May 30 2003
This is one of the most entertaining art books I've seen. The text is well-written enough to fool most people, and the only way I knew it was a spoof was I've read my share of art criticism and art history, even though I'm a biologist by training, and I think I can detect when someone is making fun of the whole business.
Having figured out the text was a joke, it was only a hop, skip, and a jump to figuring out the cat paintings were probably fake and probably done on a computer. I'm not positive about this, since they look so realistic, but it seems likely. Also, it seems unlikely that any cat would sit still long enough to have such elaborate paintings done.
Furthermore, if that wasn't enough, the author states that some of the paintings were by well-known artists that cost as much as $7000 each--not very likely. (Also I've never heard of any of these artists).
Whether they're real or fake, the cat paintings are truly spectacular and are entertaining just by themselves. I note that a veterinarian in a previous review of this book said he saw his first "painted cat" recently, and he said that the cat had tried to lick off the paint and had ulcers on its tongue. This could be a jest also, but I suppose someone could have been taken in by the book too and actually tried to do one.
Well, I hope most people realize the whole book is very likely an elaborate joke and don't try to paint anymore cats if it can be harmful to them, but the book as just a book of remarkable cat "paintings" is quite entertaining.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful & Hysterical March 23 2003
Silver and Busch have done it again! Their first book, "Why Cats Paint," is the most hysterical art book I've ever seen and makes me chuckle to think about it.
"Why Paint Cats" continues the put-on tradition even more, with the deadly serious tone of a true art book, and the hysterical premise of painting cats strange colors and designs. Yet as a book of cat photos, it is truly beautiful. I don't know how they actually got the great patterns on these cats (I suspect they are only in the photos), but the the effects are spectacular.
This is a laugh-out-loud book for any art or cat fancier. The dead-pan seriousness, with its subtle underlying humor, extends even to the "Selected Bibliography," which includes:
Rathbone, P. 2001, The Tenth Life. The Preservation and Display of Our Painted-But-Departed Feline Companions. Taxidermy Press, Edinburgh.
I dare anyone to find the above title on www.Amazon.com! This book is a hoot from beginning to end. Enjoy!
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3.0 out of 5 stars deadpan humor, Photoshop-style Dec 26 2002
I got this book for Christmas 2002. I'm an art student, so I appreciated the spot-on parodies of art criticism. However, I can also easily tell that these cats were "painted" in Photoshop or a similar image-manipulation program, using filters and processes that give a furry texture to painted areas. There is one photo I'm not certain about (a white cat with blue hearts), but in almost any other photo in the book, the digital processing is pretty obvious. The cats aren't physically painted... it's their photos that have been decorated, not their bodies.
I'm really alarmed by the concept that people aren't looking closely enough at the pictures to tell that they're normal cat photos that have been manipulated to look "painted." Some of them are really clever and enjoyable; I like the cat who has been given a curly moustache, the cat painted to look like an orange and blue carp, and the cat who has tribal "tattoos". Since this book does not, however, have a big sign on the front that says "THIS IS A PARODY" - and it should - please don't buy yourself a copy if you don't get the joke, and please don't buy it for anyone else who you think might take it seriously and try to paint their cat. It may sound like a cute idea, but you could really hurt your beloved pet... and who would want to do that?
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Purfect Prank
I bought a copy of this book for myself and a copy for a friend. I'm not going to give the copy to my friend and I don't really know what to do with the one I have. Read more
Published on Feb. 18 2004 by bunnitos
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow ! Everyone who sees our copy of this book wants it !
My wife and I borrowed a copy of this book from her friend. Since then, we have bought our own copy, and FOUR of our friends have purchased the book after seeing ours! Read more
Published on Feb. 7 2004 by T.P.
5.0 out of 5 stars It's sooo wrong, but you can't stop looking at it.
I saw this book at my daughter's guitar lesson studio. I picked it up and just couldn't stop looking at the pictures. Who the heck would do this to their beloved pet--even a cat? Read more
Published on Nov. 25 2003 by icemom
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny and Edgy
Warning: This book is not for people who take themselves (or anything else) too seriously.
I love "Why Paint Cats. Read more
Published on Sept. 6 2003 by Robert I. Hedges
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Coffee Table Book
This is a great coffee table book. The cover draws you to it because you are wondering "Why does that cat look like a butterfly? Read more
Published on Sept. 5 2003 by Geno
4.0 out of 5 stars Why Paint Cats
I absolutely loved the book. However, I bought two books as a gift for a couple of my cat loving friends. Read more
Published on Aug. 13 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredibly cute book
I got this as a gift for a friend, but I did look at it before I gave it away, and the only problem with it is that it's not long enough. Read more
Published on Aug. 3 2003 by P. Was
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant!
If Christopher Guest dove into book writing and concepting I'm not sure that even his brilliance could touch the amazing, hysterically funny work contained within these pages. Read more
Published on July 9 2003 by Brian Wallace (Co-author of It's Not Your Hair)
5.0 out of 5 stars trick photography
I was upset about this idea of changing the looks of an already beautiful creature...like gilding the lily... Read more
Published on March 16 2003 by Margaret H. Underwood
1.0 out of 5 stars Terrible
I did not read the book. I would never read the book. It has to be one of the most sadistic and cruel things to do to a cat or any animal. Read more
Published on Jan. 23 2003 by Marj
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