The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

January 17, 2017

January 18, 1951

Peter Shelton (January 18, 1951) is an American artist, His sculpture was described by Art in America this way: "Peter Shelton's sculpture has made deviously and delightfully clear for more than 30 years that physical space is, inevitably, also psychical..."

A recent proposal of his for public art was written up by Smithsonian magazine:

Called “Catbridge,” the piece of public art could soon grace an overpass spanning Howard Street that connects different portions of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Metcalfe reports that the project, which is “populated with mutant felines whose peepers gleam in the dark,” is one of three finalists for the project.

On the San Francisco Arts Commission page for the project, artist Peter Shelton explains that “Catbridge” was inspired by Janus, the two-faced god of doors, gates and passageways of Roman mythology. Shelton links Janus to cats, which are “the consummately adapted urban animal that is as much a part of the day of the night.”

Shelton proposes that crouching, glowing-eyed cat sculptures draw visitors across the bridge during the daytime and at night, when their eyes would be the only light on the bridge, and he compares his vision with other sculpture bridges in cities like Prague and Rome.

Here are Shelton's ideas for the bridge sculpture:

And here is how the artist himself sees the cat bridge

A bridge is a gate and passage from one place to another. While modestly scaled in comparison, my sculpture proposal for the Howard Street Bridge follows in the tradition of the sculpture bridges of Bernini’s Ponte Sant’Angelo in Rome and the Charles Bridge in Prague. I want to use a set of sculptures to draw us across the bridge during both the day and the night.

In Roman mythology, Janus is the two faced god of beginnings and transitions—of gates, doors, doorways, endings and time. In ancient sculpture, we usually encounter his dual faces looking both forwards into the future and backwards into the past. This is the origin of our word January. For the Howard Street Bridge, I propose to render five to six pedestal mounted cast bronze sculptures based on the abstracted forms of cats. The cat is the consummately adapted urban animal that is as much a part of the day scape and as of the night.

I envision these cat forms on pedestals roughly two feet in diameter. The eyes of these cats would light up at night in keeping with the concept of the multi-facing Janus figures of antiquity. These cats would have at least two faces and two sets of eyes facing in both directions of the bridge.

The glowing eyes of the cats would lead us up and over the otherwise darkened bridge. It is important that the experience of the sculptural installation is as credible and poetic during the day as it is at night.

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