Andy Warhol made time capsules. 608 of these things, filling a box with a mix of items from his life at the time, giving it a number, and stashing it away. Curators have opened them all, and their contents are actually on display at The Warhol, here in Pittsburgh. Warhol was a huge influence on me once I finally got around to making artwork, and it’s been wonderful to be able to study him up close, right here in my city. He just had a birthday, and each year people visit his grave in the Byzantine Catholic cemetery in Bethel Park, which always makes the news, August being a slow month.
Andy and his mom Julia loved cats too. Living in Andy’s New York apartment as he worked his way to success as an illustrator in the 1950s they adopted a cat named Hester, then adopted a friend for her named Sam, and soon there was a colony of cats in the apartment. I frown on this now, but in those days there was no accessible spay and neuter, and besides that the instant clowder inspired Andy and his mom to co-author a book titled 25 Cats Name Sam and One Blue Pussy (yes, the title does have a “typo”, or a “writeo” since the title is in script). Andy’s parents were immigrants and one of his older brothers was born in the old country, his father was a coal miner and died from a work-related cause when Andy was 13, and he and his siblings grew up very poor, sleeping in the attic so they could rent out the first floor for money. But Julia was quite a creative person and in another life would likely have been an artist in her own right, and that was probably why she always encouraged Andy’s creativity, especially when he was home sick, and why she moved from Pittsburgh to New York City to take care of him. She did the calligraphy in that book and in many other of Andy’s works. The book was a limited edition series of hand-tinted lithographs that likely helped to pay the bills in those days. I apparently absorbed the images of these cats when I was very young before I realized it, and almost a decade ago when I began my daily cat sketches, out they came.
Back to the time capsules, at some point in my listening life I remember someone remarking that Andy just cleaned off his desk into a box, just wiped the slate clean, and sealed it up and dated it, and started over again piling things on his desk. That wasn’t what he did. He collected everything. He found so many things inspiring. And he was very organized. He carefully chose and packed the contents of each box, and set it aside.
Over the years here, however, I did clean off my desk into a box countless (because I keep finding them and really don’t know how many) times and each time thought of Andy Warhol, my inspiration in so many things. But really, when my files were full and I didn’t have time to clean them out, when paperwork built up for my mother and brother and superseded my own, when the cats were sliding off my desk on the dune of shifting papers, I got a box and put as much into it as I could, knowing that I would keep it and someday go through it to pull the things I really needed to keep.
When I talk about going through boxes, that’s what I’m talking about. Most of what’s in each is papers, but also old checkbooks, CDs of music and design content, photographs, tape measures, books, flash drives, knick knacks, rocks, candy, things I’ve been looking for for years, and little notes on scraps of paper that bring back memories.
Last week I plowed my way through a big portion of my career, my bins of samples of things I’d designed and had printed which I kept filed for easy reference to show a customer samples of what I’d designed, or to show a sample of a product I thought would work for them. I’ve had a hard time giving up those samples. They represent nearly 30 years of my life, the work I spent days and nights producing, which I enjoyed and of which I’ve always been very proud. I moved them out of the file drawers several years ago and stacked the bins on my deck so they’d still be handy, and filled the file drawers with my greeting cards. My new career, now.
One of the bins turned out to be one of my time capsules. Already on a nostalgic wave from remembering the days and times I’d designed a few hundred products I’d just sorted through, I found a little square of paper edged in holographic silver denoting the 3″ x 3″ note cube I had on my desk for most of the time I worked at home. On it was written “aluminum hydroxide” and “binder” and “phosphorus phosphate” and “compounding pharmacy”. That would be when my veterinarian told me about a phosphorus binder to add to Cookie’s food as she was quickly slipping into renal failure in her last year. I could picture myself, pen between my fingers, reaching for the note cube with my right hand, holding the phone in my left, pulling one off and quickly writing this note with flutters of hope that we could slow down her decline or stop it, at least for a while, Cookie sitting on my lap, a bright autumn afternoon in 2011 waning outside the windows.
The photo at the top is called “Cookie in Speckles” as she sits at that ever-popular basement door, the sun moved behind the trees throwing speckled shadows and light through the screen, the square tattersall pattern of hardware cloth clear on the doorstep and floor, a bit of the blue door in the upper corner. When our eyes met as I took that photo, both Cookie and I knew this would be it, there would be no turning back, we would part some time in the near future, and this would be our last summer. I thought of that moment, and looking at the photo I think of all the other cats I’ve loved who sat at that door on summer days, and the cats who sit there now. It isn’t sad, it’s a wonder that I’ve been able to love so many cats.
Not that some cats are more special than other cats, but all our loves are different. Cookie was different from the first moment, and we had a 20-year history that I will never forget and always be grateful for. She was calming and positive, every moment; her role was to support me, and she did, until the very end. She knew I loved her completely, and let her know all the time.
2011, 2012, almost a decade ago. I can hardly believe it’s been that long. And then it seems a lifetime ago. People thought, and today still think, Warhol’s time-capsules were ridiculous, another pop culture ploy for attention. But the curators knew what he was doing, and carefully note each item, and make the connection to the culture of the time, and see the influence in Warhol’s contemporary works. I’m no Warhol, everyone wants me to just toss these boxes in the recycling bin and no one is ever going to carefully document any of my time capsules, but I see too, there is more passion in a box of stuff than most people would ever know.
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Feline Photography from Portraits of Animals
Tortoiseshell cats can be camouflaged against many backgrounds with all their irregular speckles and dots. This photo of Cookie taken in the spring of 2010 truly shows her ability to blend into her background as her orange and tan blend with last year’s leaves and her green eyes blend with the spring’s new growth. I could not love her more. Click here to read more.
All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission, although links to your site are more than welcome and are shared. Please ask if you are interested in using and image or story in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of an image or a product including it, check my animal and nature website Portraits of Animals to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.
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Weekly schedule of features:
Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters Tuesday: Rescue Stories Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork Thursday: New Merchandise Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!