“The Cat’s Out of the Bag,” a senior exhibit by Daniela Barbani at Azusa Pacific University invites animal lovers, especially cat fanatics, into the whimsical world of felines portrayed through fluid acrylic illustrations.
The exhibit features seven of Barbani’s more recent cat illustrations with titles such as “Go Your Own Way,” “French Isn’t Always Fancy,” and “The 1%.”
“I’d like to think what it would be like if cats were like humans and what would that look like in a world that was dominated by cats,” Barbani said. “I am fascinated with animal behaviors, and cats are hysterical so I wanted to expand on that.”
“Box Wine, Feelin’ Fine” shows a bartender cat with a goatee wearing a shirt saying “The Alley Cat” pouring wine into a glass.
“I come from an Italian and Armenian family and (drinking) is part of the culture, so I wanted to play around with that because I got really into bartending at my house and experimenting with how fun it can be,” she said.
“I think there’s a lot of humor in (the bartender cat), it’s well executed and its fabulous,” said Jamie Sweetman, adjunct professor at APU’s department of art and design.
Barbani’s illustrations portray vivid colors and satiric images, provoking thoughts about real human issues with humorous representations of humans through cats.
“A lot of art can be heavy, whereas hers was lively, fun, engaging and enjoyable,” said Stephen Childs, assistant professor and exhibitions director for the department of art and design.
“She utilizes the space very well with the way it was hung and lit, allowing the artwork to sing,” he said.
“Not Talkin’ Bout My Generation” features a green rugged-looking cigarette-smoking cat casually leaning against the wall of a record store that closed down already. Posters alluding to famous artists are drawn on the wall, such as the Rolling Hairballs, referring to the English rock band, the Rolling Stones.
“I love record stores, and they are disappearing, so I wanted to do a commentary on how good music is dying and this generation doesn’t have access to that anymore,” Barbani said.
“To Protect and Serve Donuts” illustrates two cats standing outside a donut shop called Donut Cat waiting for their tuna donuts beside a police officer cat leaning against his car and enjoying a fresh tuna donut. Donut Cat looks strikingly similar to Donut Man, a popular donut shop on Route 66 in Glendora.
“Donut Man is a such a big part of the area, everyone at my school knows about it and goes there and so I kind of wanted to do a tribute to it,” Barbani said.
Barbani majored in studio art and minored in graphic design. She works with painting, drawing, printmaking and graphics.
She uses Golden Fluid Acrylics, which contain high pigment levels and produce a very thin, flat look with minimal brush strokes, making her images look as if they were computer-made.
“She has not only has gained her artistic skill, and grown that, but she also knows how to organize things and hang a show and do all that’s necessary, which is pretty impressive,” Sweetman said.
When she first started creating cat illustrations, she used reoccurring cat characters, but once she gained more experience in the realm of cat illustrations, she branched out to different forms and figures of cats, giving them each varied personalities and distinctive physical attributes.
“My goal is to make people of all ages laugh and smile,” she said. “Even if they don’t like cats, I hope they enjoy looking at the images.”
“I would like them to walk away with a greater appreciation for illustrative work, because sometimes I feel like it doesn’t get taken as seriously as like an abstract painting or something very realistic.”
After graduation from APU, Barbani plans on attending graduate school in either illustration or printmaking and illustrate her own kids books one day.
“The possibilities are endless, I just have to decide what path I want to take.”
This exhibit ends today at the “L” Art Gallery, located in the Duke Academic Complex at Azusa Pacific University.
Erum Jaffrey can be reached at email@example.com.