15 minutes: Matt McCarthy, 41

How did you get started with art? Have cats always been your inspiration?

I was always artistic. I went to architecture school and that didn’t work. I did a lot of illustration work and then got into college. As soon as I got into digital collage, I started making these giant cat pieces – the idea just popped into my head.

I hadn’t lived with cats until I was in my twenties, when I moved in with someone who had a cat. It’s really starting to resonate with their personalities. Cats get along with humans more than any other pet or pet. They became my inspiration after that.

I will do illustration work and am always drawn to cats. The idea for cutting giant cats came from watching my cats, and seeing how they interacted with insects around the house and things. We were living in New York at the time, so I thought, “What if you start putting these giant cats in urban settings?” And the idea kind of started from there.

It was also a time when I was researching my voice and cats became my inspiration, my outlet. Through their personalities, I was able to express what I was trying to say.

Who are/were the biggest artistic influences on your art?

The mid-century modern pop artists and architects had a huge impact on me growing up and I feel that some of their feelings are still present in my work. I like the pieces to be funny or clever and put a lot of emphasis on the craft when creating. I also enjoy the process of finding connections between two images, and the work of collage artists John Stezaker and Kensuke Koike is inspiring to me. And though I’m no photographer, I’d be remiss if I didn’t recognize the work of Walter Chanduha, the world’s greatest cat photographer. His images defined the way the twentieth century viewed cats and paved the way for today’s internet cat culture.

How many cats do you have? What are their names? Are they the cats you usually photograph?

Currently, I only have one cat. His name is Atticus and he is 17 years old. He is a black cat and he is very, very special. my wife [Katherine Cox] And I looked into adoption for several years, but it was kind of like, “The cats will find you,” and they did. We found a couple outside our grocery store and rescued them. We have given them a wonderful life. We only have one old man and we have no plans to add anything. It’s our main focus now.

I don’t actually use any of our cats for my piece. It’s hard for me because I know their characters so well. I prefer using and finding public domain cats because it gives me a blank canvas to put my character in that cat. I rarely use mine.

I’m also really bad at portraying Atticus. Since it is black, we call it “the emptiness”. I can never get a great picture of him to use in my art. Public domain cats are easier to work with.

What is your favorite piece so far?

I have many favourites, but the piece that resonates with me right now is the first you’ll see when you step into the Magnus Katos turns out. It’s titled “Campfire Tales” and features a huge cat that makes eye contact with you, lit up in the glow of a campfire. The way a good story can take you to a place you’ve never been to experience things you never thought possible before. It’s something I try to do with every piece I create.

Matt McCarthy Magnus Katos The art show runs through June 28 at the Cary Center for the Arts.

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