Close the Door, Turn on the Light On

whitedogBY Patrick K. Mares

Before you even enter the White Dog Black Cat Cafe you are greeted by art, the stylized murals of animals that adorn the outer and inner walls of the building. But inside you’ll find them mixed with a set of very different pieces. The critters that give the place its name share the walls with dozens of bold and liquid, heavily-textured, abstract pieces. But these aren’t just visual art.

This collection is part of a joint effort between local musician and songwriter James Edwards and Kat Anderson, the painter behind the canvas around us. It’s called From the Porch, a collaboration of composition in audio and visuals as Kat was excited to tell us, “This has been my dream, for at least oh my gosh, at least sixteen-seventeen years, to have music go along with my art in my show so it can make a bigger impact.” About a decade ago she met a musician named James Edwards, “Of course we didn’t work it out [then] … but he got in contact with me twelve years later and I said okay. I told him, okay, this has been my dream.” Something about his work just clicked with Kat, and the two decided to collaborate, “It blew me away. You know how you get chills. Do you ever get that when something just feels right? … If you don’t get a chill [when you hear it], I am going to pinch you.”

Kat’s art surrounds us as we talk, contrasting colors and darkness that move in whorls and waves. Kat tells us the 21 pieces on the walls around us are the result of about three months of inspiration. She has been in town for all of six months at this point. And she tells us, for the first half of those she hibernated, growing roots and chipping away at an art block while she settled in. But three months past her dog passed away, a companion of 16 years.

Kat told me the process of moving on “is like closing the door, letting everything from your past go so the light can come on.” In fact, the phrase both Kat and Jim use to describe From the Porch is “close the door, turn the light on.” Kat explained that you can see the difference in her work as she recovered, “Some are brighter than others, because the light came on basically.” The changes and emotions she’s struggled with and worked through over the last several months went directly into the composition. Kat suggested that the presence of that story behind those works gave them a deeper meaning, and perhaps the ability to connect with others in similar circumstances.

In a sense that would be like a form of healing, if you’d like to call it that. A side of the music. Like I said, this is part of a journey that people can relate to. Especially right now. And I thought that this was really important as opposed to just doing art. for art’s sake. It tells a story that people are having problems with right now. A lot of people. Not everybody, but a lot of people.

Jim explained how he went about constructing the musical half of From the Porch. He was aided in this by musician, Joe Delong who helped co-engineer the piece. Jim was looking to work the past into the song just as deeply as Kat wove her own story within her paintings. To this end he incorporated the the musical tools he’d built up around himself over the years, found and broken instruments and stored animal recordings. There are puppies suckling recorded 30 years ago, and birds calling across the desert. Jim explains, “I have them captured. it’s part of my past. It relates to her present.” While the dogs are a reference to Kat’s missing companion, the birds reminded her of her loved ones. She told us that every time a loved one passes away, she hears a birdsong ring out in the silence. When she hears those birds again she’s reminded of those she loves as if they were with her. The music is an eclectic mix, seguing from one style to the next over its eight minute run, mirroring the content and differences from painting to painting.

We had a drink and listened as the music segued from guitar to synthesizer to didgeridoo. As the pastiche of sounds drawn from the lives of two artists melded with the paintings from the last three months, shards and drips of every color mixed with the eclectic music, and Kat got up and started dancing along with the accompaniment to her work. Afterward Jim told me, it wasn’t until then “that I realized this: the collage of musical reflections of her exhibit that I have woven, fits not only the art, but the woman as well… To me, it’s an unexpected compliment.”

As for me, I felt the chills Kat was talking about. If you’d like to catch them yourself the art is showing at the Black Cat White Dog cafe through the end of March. But that’s only half the experience. The complete project will be on display at the second art showing for From the Porch: Thursday, March 19 from seven to nine.

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