Cats Pertha


A review by Hilda Pertha, The Mendocino Beacon, Thursday October 2, 1980
When a serious artist turns to a light mood, something greater than charm becomes visible. This is what occurs when Fran Moyer turns her attention to the subject of cats.

Fran’s love for cats extends to the joy and humor and all the many moods she has observed in these creatures of mystery. Her means are clear and concise: ink and wash in succinct areas of the total composition in every drawing. The papers are small to medium in size, yet some reach a sense of the colossal.

Fran has to her credit fine art in sculpture, painting and prints, poetry and humorous children’s stories, years of devotion to students, building and woodworking, and now, in 1980, a series of the most delightful expose of cat (and human) spirit I have ever seen. The aliveness is what strikes me first, then the gaiety, color and humor are manifest.
But aside from what first greets the eye as subject, there is a deeper aspect to Fran’s work here which I want to point out. I am referring to the qualities a mature artist demonstrates in each composition he undertakes, be it as small as a miniature or as large as a mural.

Observe, for example, the superb use of space in each drawing. The “notan” or solid-vs-space areas are clearly defined and in each case unique. The areas in the two-dimensional sense are elegantly balanced. At the same time, a separate, more subtle space entity in the third dimension is felt, and the third dimensional objects have very comfortable areas in which to exist.

The shapes are convincing whether the cat form is stretched out in extreme activity or at rest. The involvement of the cat watching or pursuing its prey gives these works their remarkable variety as an exhibit. At the same time, each one is intensely individual and holding interest far more than just as a cat picture. Human female nudes interspersed among the cats give another delightful dimension.

Moyer’s drawings go beyond the usual cat concept which many artists have exploited. They are genuine works of art. Take, for example, a composition in which three red-orange cats are finding a spot to rest on a green rug. The colors dance, with the wall behind softly striped in yellow-green on yellow ochre. Each shape is exciting to the eye, yet holds its place within the rectangular format. The cat on the right sits tall with the line of the back at an acute angle to the right vertical side of the picture. On a level place with him, a second cat crouches, their respective tails forming a curve in harmony with the respective shape of the cat, each tail taking a lively part in the movement inherent in the composition.

The third cat, smaller as it recedes into the rear of the space, also forms an acute angle, but this time to the upper left horizontal edge of the painting. Tiger-stripes harmonize with the broader vertical stripes of the rear wall as well as the subtly suggested horizontal stripes of the oval carpet, a bluish-green color which perfectly sets off the warm hues of the cats. The tail of the third cat falls vertically near the left edge, with just a suggestion of the acute angle again. The very subtle stripes on the other two cats are there to reward you as you take another look.

In this as in many other works, the eyes of the cats are focused on a particular thing, either out of range or in the actual picture. The artist has utilized this cat-phenomenon as a unifying principle compositionally.

These subtleties exist in every one of the drawings, whether a simple silhouette (such as that of the small group of green-eyed black cats on a white field) or the very richly hued ones. The latter includes the cat in the garden, a truly painterly work.

Here is a world of enjoyment that goes deeply into the visual. And there is another, subtler joy that recognizes the universal values that an original work of art can evoke, that which provided the artist with the special energy humans are gifted with, enhanced by a lifetime of devotion to her craft. Yet, even beyond that, a personal achievement of a different sort speaks out from these works: a looking into that which is meaningful, that which we can love.

The archives of the Mendocino Heritive Artists offer a growing digital collection of Hilda Pertha’s work as a resource for art lovers and scholars.