Grrr Kitty

The story behind GrrrKitty:

mixed media work of hanging deer carcass and small kitten licking up blood from it

“A Wisconsin Tradition” by S.V. Medaris • 8ft x 6ft • acrylic paint, relief printing and lithography on watercolor paper. More pics at the Consumption Show. (click image to enlarge—and see the kitten)

I was photographing a deer being processed in my neighbor’s front yard. While the humans worked away on this hanging buck, carefully skinning, then cutting the different cuts of venison out, the animals gathered and sat quietly, awaiting their flung piece of meat that was expertly tossed into the waiting mouths of each of the various Weimaraners, and other dogs. The cats however, moved in, and whenever there was an opening, ran forward and settled down to lick up the pooled blood near the buck’s head.

There was this very fierce little kitten, the tiniest kitten I’ve ever seen. Small in stature, but huge in attitude, energy, spirit. I approached her to take her photo, and the highest-pitched, cutest little growl came rumbling out of her venison-filled mouth. She was working on this huge (for her) hunk of deer meat, and as I approached, she glared at me very ferociously, then slammed her tiny puffball of a paw down right next to her meat. Then to the other side “Bam!!” (I’m sure she heard), but it was only a soft, barely perceptible “poof” sound. And the high-pitched growling. I just fell in love with her survivalist, ferocious instinct. She was going to eat her venison and NOBODY was going to touch it.

blockprint of ferocious kitten with text "Grrrrrr"

One of the men working on the deer was taken by her too (everyone was laughing at this outrageously brave little fuzzball), and shortly afterward adopted her and took her home. After watching her thump her paw down first one side, then the other—delineating her space around HER food and keeping out all threats, he called her “Thumper.”

I did a mixed media piece (at top), about 8ft tall, depicting this scene of the huge hanging buck, and the tiny kitten below it, drinking the pooled blood. A fellow grad student at the time said, “If you ever do a t-shirt with that kitten on it, I want it.” Recently, I was finally able to send that t-shirt to him (black on grey t-shirt). And here it is now, in bright colors for the kiddies at the shop!

For now, here is a hodgepodge of kids’ tees—many colors—to see which ones folks like the most, available at the online shop. I will most likely do an edition of kids tees in hot pink + one other color—help decide! Send your votes at any time to info@marketweightpress.com.

Thinking of doing a small edition of GrrrKitty on pink women’s tees…any interest? Want it in an adult size? Let me know what color/size and I’ll see if there’s enough interest in an edition. See the kids t-shirts (below) now at the Market Weight Press shop brightly colored toddler t-shirts block-printed with kitten on front, and Market Weight Press logo (hog) on back

The Meat Locker

Finished the basic book. Need to figure out outside container/walls. But for now, here’s some shots straight through from front–a tunnel book–Stretched out to about 12 inches deep in the last photo.

The Meat Locker
Tunnel book, hand-colored inkjet/litho onto watercolor paper
8″ x 8″ x variable depth

Closed:
hogs look out of gate toward pasture

Partially open:
hogs look out of gate toward pasture, with break in pasture scene

Open:
hogs look into meat locker

Color litho “Sus scrofa” finished…

Sus scrofa, color litho of fat wild hybrid hog

"Sus scrofa" • color lithograph • 18" x 18" • editioned

First color litho done. This is the first in the Bestiary: A Study Guide to Animal Taxonomy.

This fat little guy was the lone male in my group of 8 pigs I raised 2 summers ago. He and 3 of his sisters were from a herd of a wild-type hybrids bred by a neighboring farmer. The farmer breeds these hogs to survive out on a huge pasture, with little supplemental corn. They’re typically very thin, lean, and survive on whatever they can find out on pasture. Well, when we brought them home to our little pasture to be raised with 4 little pink piglets (typical, white, hybrid–probably Yorkshire, Landrace, Hampshire crosses), they made themselves at home. Since they were older, they quickly showed the little pink piglets how to cool off in the mudhole, where to find the waterer, where to bed down, etc. They were great older siblings to the pinkies.

One thing drastically changed for these wild guys when they moved to our place–they suddenly had free-choice hog feed (corn and soybean mix) from a huge feeder, open 24/7. They ate ravenously. Never before had they had access to this type/quantity of food. They began to swell as the weeks went by. They didn’t really grow up, but rather, out. They became enormously fat, and this guy here in the litho, swelled up like a watermelon. I thought he would burst. the little pink piglets however, grew like typical, white, yorkshire-cross hybrid American hogs–up and long and lean. They grew to enormous proportions–long, gently arching backs–looking like walking mountains from the side.

These wild guys ate very messily, food flying everywhere as they would grab a mouthful of feed, then whip their head out to look for predators–that part of their behavior stayed the same–they were always looking out for potential danger. When they whipped their heads up and out of the feeder, the grain literally flew out of their mouths and through the air as they munched with mouths open (as pigs will do).

Well, fall came, and they went off to the butcher. When we got the meat back, the white hogs’ meat was lean, and huge cuts (porkchops the size of dinner plates and all that), while the wild hybrid’s meat was heavily marbled and the cuts were tiny. The porkchops were actually cute–tiny little things–looking like baby porkchops. The bacon was the opposite of what you’d want in bacon–it was white, with a light marbling of meat!

So, they aren’t the best hogs to raise when you have free-choice feed available if you want lots of meat. But, if it’s lard you want, these are the hogs for you!

The series is inspired by my Zoology 335 class (Animal/Human Behavior with Patricia McConnell). More in this Animal Taxonomy series will be produced throughout the rest of this year, and then printed in artist’s book form (the Bestiary) as well as separate, framed prints.

New work (Gallus…)

Gallus americanus obesus
7 1/2 ft x 6 1/2 ft
mixed media

chicken, white, broiler, obese, printmaking, acrylic, feed sacks, mixed media

Now on view at 15 seconds, at the Art Lofts.

This big guy is modeled after one of my broiler chickens. For those unfamiliar with chicken breeds, there are different types of chickens for different purposes. All hens will lay eggs, and you can eat the meat of any chicken, but some breeds are made to excel in different ways. The Broilers, or Cornish-Cross, or Jumbo Broilers are bred to have big breasts and lots of meat. They grow quicker than other breeds, sometimes (as with the Jumbo) freakishly so. Unless you restrict their food intake, the Jumbos can have major leg problems (legs facing other directions or legs unable to withstand the weight of the chicken’s body… Yes, it can be horrific). After one season of raising these Jumbos, I swore “never again.” I still grow chickens for meat, and usually I do get chicks that are Cornish-Cross, or Broilers, but not the Jumbos. If managed carefully, they can grow up without leg problems.

But they still grow amazingly fast. And huge. I’ve got some 14 lb. broilers in the freezer (that’s 14lbs. dressed). I grow them because I’m a lazy cook. I like to be able to take one chicken and make literally weeks worth of meals out of the one bird (freezing dishes for later, etc). I also love the taste of fat chicken–the fat is what makes the meat (and the dishes) have so much flavor. Granted, moderation in eating this type of food is key, but I’d much rather eat a small amount of fat chicken than a “normal” or large portion of lean.

This said, I must say that there is something freakish about these birds, and stereotypically American about them. Supersized. In contrast, the French have these petite little 5lb Crevecoeurs, Mottled Houdans and the 6-7lb Faverolles. Those are their utility birds–for eggs and table. We have Jumbo Broilers. In 6-8 weeks they can weigh 4lbs and can be butchered then (or at the other extreme, wait till the end of summer and butcher at 20 lbs.). They are huge, white, obese things and to me, mirror the current culture and our struggle against human obesity. There’s no mystery here though–their genetics are such that they are always hungry and will eat continuously. Who wouldn’t be obese with those kinds of genetics? Also, these are sedentary birds. I raise them on pasture, but the extent of their exercise is to waddle out in the morning and plunk themselves down in front of the feeders and start scarfing down. This is what they are bred for–their genetics make them always hungry and thus they just pack on the pounds almost literally overnight. I have to take the feeders away during the day so that they don’t have leg problems, or keel over from heart attacks when scared (this did happen that year with the Jumbos…. I’d have to softly talk when I approached the barn in the morn to open up, otherwise, if I opened the door and they didn’t see/hear me coming they would startle. A couple of times, a broiler was so startled it just fell to the ground and died–perfectly healthy the night before).

So, this piece sort of encapsulates the essence of the American broiler chicken, taken to extremes (and allowed to grow older than the typical processing age of 6-8wks)–huge, obese, sort of freakish, a bit scary, wider than tall, good eatin’….

Market Weight Press it is…

My very own 1910 Potter Proof Press

A Beautiful Machine

This is a 1910 Potter Proof Press waiting to be cleaned up, have a chase added, and have some proofs printed on it. It’s made of cast iron and very heavy (it was unloaded with a tractor once home on the farm). The weight of things interests me, as we raise hogs for market every year, and the market weight of those hogs is something you have to be aware of. You try to guess when their weight is going to be at the right stage by the time you take them in to be processed, and you typically call months ahead with the butcher date.

Inspiration for the print shop name looms on the wall of the printing room here: A Few Months Past Market Weight, 7ft tall, acrylic on canvas. The story behind the painting is that one year we lost our spot at the butcher (they screwed up and didn’t write our hogs down on the date we requested back in early summer). When they finally were able to get our hogs in, they each averaged over 400lbs. Biiiiiiiig guys. Pork chops the size of dinner plates and all that….