Kitty Kiddie Meow Meow - Installation with Jonathan Armistead | 2013

The Most Catasmagorical Playplace in the History of Everything!

This work arose out of the “Tough Art” residency program at the Children’s museum of Pittsburgh. Kitty Kiddie Meow Meow is an exploratory environment based on the sense of touch through textural sculptures and props. We saw the opportunity to have children be active participants in the artwork, and to engage them on the level of performer rather than participant. We provided the children with both a play-space and a stage set with props. With an overwhelming interest in online cat memes, such as ‘LOL Cats’, this project intends to physically re-engage viewers with the tactile (offline) experiences that generate a love for cats, on an exaggerated and extravagant scale.

The backdrop of our stage is comprised of a digitally printed wallpaper that exaggerates the scale of a typical living room to reflect a kitten’s viewpoint, similar to cartoons such as Muppet Babies and Roger Rabbit. Children could access the installation via a kitty-sized door so that they entered the stage from the perspective of a kitten.

The oversized props included a polka-dotted catnip mouse that featured a spring loaded jingle bell tail, and three colorful balls of yarn that could be rolled around and used for climbing. Our goal for the props was to activate the inner kitten in everyone.

The final component of this artwork was made in collaboration with the Longaberger Company. With the help of their design team we created a larger-than-life cat bed/basket. This basket was upholstered in a shearling fabric and enhanced by vibration to simulate the purring of a momma cat. This experience was very soothing and comforting and the sensation was described by many visitors as “a hot tub without the water”.

Thematic programming was also organized as a way to enhance the exhibit and the overall experience. The museum subsequently proclaimed the series of programs as “Kitty Week.” This week included events such as, “Experience a Kitten” which involved the co-operation of the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society. Kittens were brought into the exhibit to interact with the children. The children learned about enrichment for indoor cats and were given the opportunity to simply experience play with a kitten. Another highlight event included a cat toy making workshop within the “MAKESHOP” area of the museum where children made cat toys for the cats currently housed at the Humane Society. Finally, an exhibition of Scott Andrew’s collection of Cat themed t-shirts was placed on display for the duration of Kitty Kiddie Meow Meow.

Cat T-Shirt Collection

Cat T-shirt Collection

My interest in cat-based artwork goes back to the trapper keepers, stickers and lunch box designs of Lisa Frank, the psychedelic drawings of Louis Wain, Steinlen's Chat Noir, and more recently both Marion Peck's surreal paintings of kittens and Cyriak's web video Kitty City.

As my love for cats has grown, so has the international fame of internet cat memes and youtube videos. These virtual representations have seeped back into the physical world through clothing designs which prompted my sister to purchased the Kittytron T-shirt (shown in this collection) as a gift for me one holiday season. This promoted me to begin collecting more and more whimsical designs until nearly all of my shirts involved cats. Though I won't have much to wear for the next few months I am excited to share my ever-growing collection of Kitty T's with visitors to the museum.
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