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Allison Schulnik Interview on Cats

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Do you remember the first time you drew or painted a cat?

When I was 13 or so and saw what Picasso had painted when he was my age, I decided I really needed to get good fast. So I started by drawing seven things over and over again: crumpled up hand towels, flowers, myself, my parents, the beach, the alleys around town, and cats. I have pages and pages in notebooks, hundreds of cat drawings. In my later teenage years I moved to mushrooms, dancers, medieval castles, psychedelic abstractions, and sexy superhero cat-women. So I always was working with cats, I guess. And I never stopped drawing and painting cats from life. 


What drew you so strongly to your feline subjects?

I liked that they constantly moved, so it was always a game to get this quick little gesture in the right way. Plus they are so elegant and mysterious, and gracious like dancers. There is always so much twist and bend in their positions. It's like they were made to be placed in an image. My house was a bit of a cat crack house. They moved in and out, usually based on how much bacon and cheese they got, which was a lot. So there were always new ones to draw. They squatted where they pleased, and never really got kicked out. Sometimes their family members would come looking for them there, only to be turned away by the head of the house. They definitely own the house to this day.


The 21st-century belongs to the cat. They already own the Internet and its lolz, an entire subdivision of street art is devoted to their graphic representation (with or without lasers shooting out of their eyes), and now felines seem to be colonizing contemporary art galleries as well. Recently a flurry of New York shows have celebrated the cat, including Urs Fischer andCassandra MacLeod’s familial turn at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise and Kristen Schiele at Freight + Volume.


And then there is Allison Schulnik’s oil-thick exhibition at ZieherSmith Gallery, which features multiple paintings of felines (and one sculpture.) We spoke with the Los Angeles-based artist about her artistic cat fancy.

"They squatted where they pleased, and never really got kicked out"

Allison Schulnik's Obession with 




Hobo Cat Family (Mother Cat), 
16" x 20", oil on linen, 2011

Cat Head (Miggy Littleton), 24" x 24", oil on linen, 201