Stephen Eichhorn is a Chicago-based artist and he launched Cats and Plants, his debut book, in June this year. It’s been published by Zioxla, a small independent creative agency and publishing house in Barcelona.
Stephen takes vintage images of cats and plants and combines them in the most playful ways. Cats and Plants is a book to humour and delight. It’s captivating and playful – Stephen’s combinations are often unexpected: a cactus becomes a cat with the judicious placement of ears and eyes; a cat stares with flaming eyes of bright red gerbera blooms.
The pink linen covers and quality binding add to the overall experience of a highly enjoyable art book.
We asked Stephen a few questions about his book.
Stephen, we love your book. We’re intrigued… what first gave you the idea to combine cats with plants?
Around 2008/2009 while searching for source material for other collages I would occasionally come across cat books. I had a growing collection of houseplant books and I noticed that the cats had been photographed in similar way to the plants. There was a quirkiness and humor to the still life compositions of the houseplants that the cat photos shared — like the cats and plants were domestic objects.
The shell cats, as well as the stand-ups, are more recent projects (I started making both around the same time in 2015). I had found some shell/oceanic life books that had the same still life vibe as the houseplants and cats.
We want to know more about your process... is it organic or can it take a while finding the perfect arrangement of cats and plants?
I tend to pivot within my studio practice from one project to another. For instance I will work on works devoted to orchids one week and shift to the cats or sculpture or cactus collages the next. There’s a loose organisation to how I structure my time in the studio. The collage making itself is very spontaneous. Once I’m in the rhythm of composing the components together that’s a pretty quick process — but everything starts with gathering the source material and cutting the components out. At the moment I’ve been doing more cutting and gathering, which means 6–8 hours a day for weeks just devoted to excising.
The cats have been a stepping stone to other works. I had not used cacti/succulents at all until some of the early cats & plant collages. I made aesthetic and conceptual conclusions in making the cat collages that led to an entire body of work. Now the cacti and succulent work has been an undulating project in the studio for the past 3–4 years.
We understand that you only use vintage images. Did you want to set boundaries or was it purely for the aesthetic — what was your reasoning behind this?
The bulk of my imagery comes from reference books (both vintage and some contemporary). I stay away from using art photo books and have a rule against using National Geographic, Life or any magazine source in my collage process. Those materials are ubiquitous in collage making and just too easy in their image accessibility.
What lead you to work with Zioxla to publish Cats & Plants? We’re enjoying the aesthetic of the layout and binding as much as the content!
Thank you! When I started talking with Zio about a doing a monograph and sharing some of my portfolio/archive, our conversations kept coming back to the cat work. I'd made hundreds of these collages and a book felt like the right format to share them en masse.
What can we expect from you next?
I have been making a lot of new cat collages and a whole new grouping of stand-ups.
Also working on a solo show of new collage works — primarily focusing on euphorbias and other cacti for early fall.
And lastly, do you have any cats?
I have a petite lady calico named Kevin.
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