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Why Paint Cats: The Ethics of Feline Aesthetics
Burton Silver and Heather Busch
Ten Speed Press, 96 pages

Why Paint Cats: The Ethics of Feline Aesthetics
Burton Silver
Burton Silver is a well-known New Zealand writer and inventor, who specializes in subjects outside the mainstream. He has written more than 10 books, which have sold over one million copies, with themes as varied as fringe sport, avian dejecta, and Asian body-appendage sculpture.

Heather Busch
Heather Busch has been a visual artist for nearly 30 years and has a fascination for perceptions or paradigms that expand and entertain her thinking. A New Zealand resident, she obtained a fine arts degree in sculpture from Canterbury University in 1975 and has become internationally recognized for her paintings and photography.

Burton Silver Website

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Peter D. Tillman

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Your first question here, no doubt, is what a review of a book of cat photos is doing at SF Site. Well, we're glad you asked, because these are fantasy cat photos -- fantastic, even. Besides, we happen to know that a lot of SF Site readers like cats.

Let's start with the cover [click on image to enlarge] (which is currently the 'wallpaper' on my screen):

"The Unimaginable Florescence of Feline Fluttering," 2002. Vegetable dye on Aristotle, Persian. Artist: Flavia Venezia, New York

"...An earlier work, "Tortellini per sempre," 2000, which featured an intricate web of delicate pasta patterns on a Cream Tonkinese... was awarded the H.B. Saeed Mohammed Al Paganbani Prize for Decorated Food, in the mistaken belief that Italians eat cats."

Next, let's have a look at an illustration purporting to represent painted cats on postage stamps from the "independent African territory of Ayuba" . A quick Google check confirms that there is no such place (Ayuba is a common family name in Nigeria), and that Things are Not What They Seem.

No matter, as Heather Busch's manipulated photographs are luscious, funny, and really, truly amazing. Astounding. Fantastic! I can just about guarantee laugh-out-loud moments in the Painted Cat Gallery here (which is beautifully reproduced). The text is absolutely deadpan, and really, you want to believe in these cats... The book has a sort of hallucinatory shimmer -- you won't know, and likely will never know, whether cats can really be painted...

But perhaps we can judge from the readers comment page, which has such plaints as this, from an aspiring cat-painter:

"Unfortunately, trying to carefully control and paint two very willful and in the end very angry cats was an experience akin to swimming freestyle through a very large and thick tangle of blackberry while having buckets of dye thrown at you..."
-- amongst the emails from cat-lovers aghast at the very idea of painting a puss. But we must remember whose page this is, lest we go adrift again betwixt fantasy and reality... Regardez: "Some emails have been edited in the interests of comprehension." Indeed.

So, folks, don't try to paint your cats at home -- leave it to the professionals! Professional Photoshop artists, that is, or so is my reluctant belief. Pictures can't lie -- can they? Hah!

Let's hope Burton Silver and Heather Busch put together a travelling exhibit of their wonderful photos. In the meanwhile, we shall have to make do with their remarkably entertaining books, which include Why Cats Paint (1994, still my favorite) and Dancing With Cats (1999, astonishingly silly). Do check them out, for even more cat laughs and inspired tomfoolery. Not to be missed.

Copyright © 2003 Peter D. Tillman

Pete Tillman has been reading SF for better than 40 years now. He reviews SF -- and other books -- for Usenet, "Under the Covers", Infinity-Plus, Dark Planet, and SF Site. He's a mineral exploration geologist based in Arizona. More of his reviews are posted at www.silcom.com/~manatee/reviewer.html#tillman .


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