Catherine Miller: Art, technology… and cats

By Laura Fosmire, July 17, 2014

If you’ve spent a lot of time on the internet, particularly social media sites and Buzzfeed articles, you may be familiar with the cat beard trend.

For Catherine Miller, her introduction to cat bearding came at a pivotal moment in her life.

Catherine Miller

Something about the silly internet images stuck. Miller spent hours looking through people’s pictures with their cats (and dogs), finding the funniest ones.

“I laughed so hard, my face hurt, my stomach hurt,” she said. “And then I started drawing them.”

Miller, a 29-year-old artist born and raised in Portland, has been an artist all her life. As a child, she immersed herself in the colorful world of crayons (“not just the crayon itself, but the wrapper, too”) and was never without a coloring book. Her schooling was all in art and she has curated a number of exhibits throughout Portland in a variety of media — paints, sculpture, watercolor, sketching. She’ll work in whatever medium feels best suited to a piece, she said, but “if I’m wanting to feel relaxed or feel at home, it’s always with a brush.”

Her art has largely included the same theme. Miller is visually impaired (she’s legally blind), and is in fact the first visually-impaired artist to graduate from the Pacific Northwest College of Arts. Since graduation, she has used her work to point out how the fine arts can often fail to cater to disabled patrons, and worked to make the fine arts world more inclusive. In 2011, she curated an exhibit called ‘A Somewhat Secret Place,’ meant to highlight art created by and for those with disabilities.

She’s been obsessively drawing cat memes from the internet since last June.

“Lately I’ve switched from just cat beards to internet-famous felines, so I’ve been working on hipster kitty and dubstep kitty a lot this week,” she said. “It’s great. I find that I really connect with people that way.”

She sees an important intersection between technology, communication and, of course, cats. And that intersection is with art.

“The job of an artist, really, is to point the gaze of society at something,” she said. “That’s why I’ve been drawing these images. That is, I’m not saying it’s great or it’s not great. It is. This is. And perhaps more important than you were thinking.”