A Westbeth artist has launched an Indiegogo campaign to fund her latest creation: the JacCAT, a piece of "wearable art" featuring the silhouette of one of her longtime muses: her recently deceased cat, Ari.
Artist SuZen has lived in the artists' housing complex for more than 40 years and has produced work inspired by her cats since the '90s.
"The whole thing with the cats started [when] I had a book published in 1990 on the true story of how my two cats met and fell in love, photographed by me and told by them," the mononymous artist explained in a recent interview.
After the book, she started making related pillows, tote bags, scarves and postcards, and "the JacCAT basically came out of that."
"It's really a synthesis of my work," she said, explaining how the process involves her expertise both as a photographer and a graphic designer.
"It originates as a photograph and then I'm a graphic designer so I create this design that's the essence of [the photograph]," she said, "translating it into 'artwear.'"
The JacCAT, she writes on her Indiegogo page, is "the purrrfect synthesis of all the things I love — photography, design, cats and fashion."
SuZen is probably best known for her Times Square mural, a photograph of the Empire State Building's silhouette as seen through venetian blinds, which has been on display at 303 W. 42nd St. across from the Port Authority Bus Terminal since 1984. Westbeth recently hosted a 50-year retrospective of her career.
The feline subjects of the 1990 book, "Sushi and Sashimi," "passed on" years ago, and SuZen got two more cats, Ari and Gato. The silhouette on the JacCAT is of Ari, who died last year.
SuZen also plans to "be involved in the cat cafes," a new trend popping up all over the city that originated in Japan — a country with an aesthetic she feels connected to.
"I have very much of a Japanese aesthetic," she said, pointing to her four cats' names as evidence. (Ari and Gato combine to create the word "arigato," which is Japanese for "thank you.")
While the JacCAT is a local New York City creation, manufactured in the Manhattan's Garment District, it is in fact made from cotton imported from Japan.
The Indiegogo campaign is necessary to fund the manufacturing of the jackets, SuZen said.
She outlines the process, from purchasing materials to creating samples, on the Indiegogo page, which enthuses that support for the project means "backing entrepreneurship, work for Americans, an independent artist/designer, and care for cats without homes," as she plans to donate a portion of her eventual proceeds to cat rescue organizations.
As of Friday afternoon the project had raised $740 out of the $10,000 goal.
Depending on the level of their donation, contributors can get note cards, books, a tote bag, T-shirt or scarf, a signed print or the JacCAT itself.
She also has plans for "cat parties."
"One of my concepts is to create cat parties and, wherever I am, to support a local cat rescue place," she said. The first will happen in Toronto when she goes for a visit soon, where a friend has committed to hosting such a party for cats and humans who wish to purchase SuZen's goods.