Why Paint Cats: The Ethic of Feline Aesthetics, by Burton Silver and Heather Busch (Ten Speed Press, 96 pages, $16.95).
At first flush, the very idea of painting a live cat seems inhumane, unnatural, messy and quite possibly dangerous. Yet herein are extraordinarily entertaining photographs of cats whose fur has been colored with vegetable-based hair dyes by 23 artists -- and every one of the animals appears contented, or at least placid. Busch is the photographer; Silver, a New Zealander whose prior work has raised apparent spoofs to a high art form. Each artist's work gets a genre designation, conceived by Silver, who wrote the delicious commentary -- "Kinetic Observationalism," "Eco-Integrationism," "Filamentalism" and -- my personal favorite -- "Retromingent Expressionism." The book asserts that "Cat painting has been practiced by Eastern cultures for centuries" and that the West is ready for it. Ready or not, here it comes -- and I defy even the stuffiest of tabby-cherishers not to find delight in this work.