Work of the Week — “Sugar” by Maude Gatewood

Monday, February 19, 2018

by Sadie Allen

Basking in the sun, musing (and perhaps mewing), lies a mysterious being often called the cat. I have seen this scene (and many others, often involving dead birds, tail-chasing, and even occasion thefts of food) many times, as I grew up around the mischievous beasts. My grandmother attracted felines like honey attracts flies. She lived in a busy neighborhood and often took in the stray kits as her own, feeding and spoiling them (often making them an unspeakable weight, a trait that carried over to my own pets). She passed on her love of cats to my father, who kept our house filled with felines. Currently, we have a too-big-for-his-breeches (literally and figuratively; he weighs 20 pounds!) gray cat and a wandering calico. I have always admired the quiet lives of these beasts, spending calm days sunbathing and strutting while still finding time to make mischief.
Maud Gatewood (1934-2004) shared this fascination with the felines, inspiring her to paint the lovely piece Sugar. Its simple bluish gray background allots for the focus on the white kit, lazily bathing in the center of the painting. The pinkish hints from the cat’s tongue and belly add to the calming composition of the piece, reminding me of my great obsession with the creatures. Just like her art piece, her life was painted with many stories and accolades. Gatewood was born in Yanceyville, NC and went to Ohio State University to receive her Master of Arts Degree. She also won multiple awards, including the Fulbright Grant (allowing her to study in Salzburg, Austria), the Southeastern Grant, the North Carolina Poster Award (for her work on the United States Olympic Festival in 1987), and many other honors. Her work continues to be featured in galleries around the country, including many shows specifically showcasing her work. Her work has been described as “clear and precise and depicting a very specific moment in time.” This piece cultivates a clear and calming image of the cleansing kit and bathes the reader in the peaceful moment.
This stunning painting brings a playful beauty to the simple events of every day. There is something magical about even the smallest second spent watching a cat. As Leonardo Da Vinci wrote, “even the smallest feline is a masterpiece.”

Artwork above: Maud Gatewood, Sugar, 1936, General, Monoprint. Bequest of the Artist. Permanent Collection. 2007.02.10.60.