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Artwork of the Week

Artwork of the Week: Yellow Cat Belonging to a Thinking Woman

Yellow Cat Belonging to a Thinking Woman
Doug Himes, 'Yellow Cat Belonging To A Thinking Woman (21/43),' 1986, lithograph, 11 1/8 x 14 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, gift of Wayne Kimball, 2010.

Hal Douglas Himes taught printmaking at BYU for several years. His work is often encoded with cryptic symbols that tease the viewer with intended meanings while subverting their attempts to arrive at any straightforward interpretation. The evocative title of this print, “Yellow Cat Belonging to a Thinking Woman,” hints that a larger narrative is at play, but the identity of the “woman” or the reason behind the cat’s stylistic presentation are not made clear. A few sentences scratched along the bottom of the print describe a time when a cat appeared to the artist in a dream, but as the text progresses, it becomes harder to read before becoming completely incomprehensible. Much like the dream that may have inspired this print, the content of the original caption has now faded beyond reconstruction.

However, we are not left completely without clues about the meaning of the work. The roughly rendered neon yellow cat is cast against a stark black background in a manner reminiscent of a chalkboard drawing—an interpretation reinforced by the alphabet sequence of letters running along the cat’s back. A chalkboard, like a dream, is often used as a space to think through and manifest ideas in more concrete terms. On closer inspection, it becomes clear that the cat is actually drawn multiple times, once in the dominant graphic yellow, but also above that in overlapping blue and red. Perhaps the work has more to do with the verb “thinking” than it does with any particular “woman” or “cat.” The artist is said to have remarked that, “A good painting 'says' certain things that can't be said better any other way.” So, perhaps in this case it is best to give the final say back to the print itself; take a look.

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Is this a painting, or is it a sculpture?
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