A brown tabby cat named Roy joined artist Junko Tsuchida’s family in the year 2000. During a difficult period of Tsuchida’s life, she took comfort in sketching Roy, sometimes for up to five hours a day.
"The drawings acted as meditation and a creative tool to express my feelings," Tsuchida wrote in an artist’s statement. By the end of 2011, she had 450 drawings of the beloved feline, who died in 2017.
"184 Days with Roy," her installation included in the new "CATS, From Artist Expression to Devotion" exhibition at Cubberley Community Center, offers 184 of her graphite Roy depictions. The drawings are displayed on cards, reminiscent of a wall calendar, and connected by a red thread, which she said is a powerful symbol of fate and attachment for soulmates in Japanese culture.
"This magical cord may stretch or tangle, but never breaks," she said. "I use the metaphor in my installation to connect Roy and myself, and in a broader sense to connect humans and cats as lasting companions."
Cubberley Artist Studio Program (CASP) member Pantea Karimi curated the show, which also includes the cat-themed ink art of fellow CASP artist Harumo Sato.
"To me, both (artists) have an elegant, minimalistic approach to drawing which emphasizes the cat in a beautiful, heartfelt way," Karimi said.
Cats, according to Sato, are mysterious, which is part of their appeal.
"Each cat has some drama in his or her life, but their sleeping face looks like an angel. My goal has been to catch their varied personality and emotion with my Chinese brush," she said.
The free exhibition will be on display through Nov. 11 in the Art Lab, Room U7, 4000 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto (open Monday, Wednesday and Friday 2-4:30 p.m. and Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m, with a reception Saturday, Nov. 9, 4:30-6:30 p.m.).
A calligraphy workshop hosted by Karimi, Tsuchida and CASP artist Chandrika Marla will be held Nov. 9 from 11 a.m to 1 p.m., in which participants will learn to write "cat" in Japanese, Persian and Hindi, using origami paper and traditional calligraphy tools. Visitors can also share their own experiences with cats on the small papers provided at the gallery, which will then be showcased with the exhibition.