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New Photography! Laura Bell’s Black Cat Casts Its Spell on Us

Black Cat by Laura Bell
10"x8" ($24) | 14"x11" ($60) | 20"x16" ($240) | 24"x20" ($600)

This is the kind of Black Cat you want to cross your path. Longtime 20x200 artist Laura Bell is back with an arresting new edition, purrfectly timed to pick up on the spooky vibes of late October.

The sight of a Black Cat drenched in darkness has a definite supernatural appeal. Even if you’re not superstitious, it’s hard to deny the visual potency of a pitch black feline emerging from the ether. The subject of Bell’s new edition is no exception: Casting its cool gaze over its shoulder, the Black Cat pictured here is magnificently mysterious. The silken texture of the cat’s coat is quite clear—light reflects from threads of fur on its backside. The yellows of its eyes loom crisply in the center of the frame like crescents of the moon in the night sky. But the edges of the cat sink into the inky background. Bleeding into blackness, Bell’s cat seems almost suspended in space. It’s an intentionally eerie and unsettling image, yet still exquisitely graceful....

This photograph belong to a series Bell created during her pregnancy as a way to chronicle the experience. Like many first-time mothers, she found herself face-to-face with all sorts of newness—new emotions and uncertainties, new growth and wonder. She shot Black Cat early on in her pregnancy, turning to this particular subject for its symbolic weight. Often used to signify unfounded fear, the black cat in this piece became a stand-in for the apprehension and anxiety Bell felt during those first few months prepping for motherhood.

“Will I be a good mother? What if there is something wrong? What if I miscarry?” Questions like these haunted Bell, whirling into a complex eddy of emotions. Bell says her anxiety bore a sort of similarity to superstition—her fear of the unknown not based on reason or reality. How fitting, then, that she was able to portray her psychological state through the image of a Black Cat partially camouflaged in the unknown. The cat looks behind as if to say “you coming?”, a subtle supplication for Bell to follow her superstitions into the abyss.

Whether in portraiture, still life or landscape, Bell does not shy away from spooky subject matter—or the subjective unease she often alludes to through that spooky subject matter. The silhouette of trees in a foggy forest, a ghostly trail of smoke wafting from a freshly snuffed-out candle, a dimly lit floral arrangement dropping petals and quietly crawling with insects… In conveying complicated psychological depths and darknesses, Bell is bold, unafraid and elegant. Black Cat cuts right to the root, all the more expressive and metaphysical for its minimalism.

We wouldn’t be surprised if art-making in these instances is downright cathartic for the photographer. You may even see Black Cat as a self-portrait of sorts, in which Bell captures her state of mind. What that artist may not have accounted for is the transfiguration of her fear into something extraordinarily beautiful. If that’s not some witchcraft worthy of pre-Halloween preparedness, we don’t know what is.

With art for everyone,
Team 20x200