Artist's cat goes on adventure in 'sequential narrative exhibition'

Lydia might not be the most adventurous cat in real life, but the tale Jen Wrubleski dreamed up for her feline friend is a product of the epic nature of the artist's imagination.

That, and Wrubleski's confessed desire to paint pictures of cats and other cute animals.

Those paintings, which chart the Homeric journey of a cat trying to find its way back home, comprise Wrubleski's solo show, “Story Time: A Sequential Narrative Exhibition,” which opens Friday, Sept. 8, at the Vanderelli Room.

“Mostly, I wanted an excuse to make 15 paintings of a cat. I'm always looking for any excuse to paint a cat,” Wrubleski said in an interview in her Blockfort studio. “The idea of it being an adventure evolved.”

There's no real-life basis for Lydia's adventures, Wrubleski said, explaining, “She used to like getting outside, but that was not ideal [as] she's not very good at being an outside cat. Most of her going outside was followed by her quickly running back inside screaming, ‘I'm an inside cat!'”

Wrubleski's vibrant, fanciful paintings — acrylic on a base of patterns of glazed and distressed cut paper — accompany a story the artist has been developing alongside the creation of the images.

“My goal was to be a children's book illustrator, but it hasn't worked out that way, and I moved on to just making paintings,” Wrubleski said. “This is like my going back to that original goal.”

The goal for this project was to create a communal experience for children and adults alike.

“When you're reading a kid's book, you're never reading it by yourself. Either someone's reading it to you or you're reading it to someone, or maybe you're looking at it nostalgically and you're thinking of the time when you read it with someone else. So even if you're by yourself, you're not alone,” Wrubleski said. “My idea was to write a children's book and stretch it into a gallery show so the audience comes in and they're all experiencing it together.”

Lydia's tale finds her navigating a small body of water (a fish bowl) and later a large body of water (the ocean). When the cat realizes how much larger the ocean is, she begins asking undersea creatures how to get home.

“Each gives her a different answer about what home is, so there's a nice lesson about how words have different significance and meaning, and exploring these different meanings of home,” Wrubleski said, adding that she feels “every children's book should have a lesson.”

Text will accompany each image, but if you want to hear the artist/author read the story aloud, you'll need to wait until the exhibition's closing reception on Friday, Sept. 22. “Story Time” will be on view at the Vanderelli Room from Sept. 8-24.