Special to Phoenix.org

By Phoenix.org staff | May 20, 2021

Art lovers, and especially those who love cats, might be interested in a new exhibit at the Mesa Historical Museum

Museum Executive Director Susan Ricci has opened an entire room dedicated to the work of the late Arizona artist Karen Kuykendall’s work.

Ricci says that when Kuykendall passed away in 1998, she left her entire collection to what was then known as the Southwest Museum, which eventually became the Arizona Museum of Natural History.

“Now it belongs to the Mesa Historical Museum,” Ricci says, noting that the Mesa Historical has over 1,000 pieces of Kuykendall’s paintings, costumes, jewelry and papier-maché creations, which in the past have been exhibited at both the Phoenix Art Museum and the Tucson Art Museum.

“It is eclectic,” Ricci says.

One of Kuykendall’s most celebrated creations is a line of work featuring cats and cat people.

“She was known as the Cat Lady because she created a sci-fi fantasy line of paintings which were turned into a book and then tarot cards which are still in print today,” Ricci says. 

“But she also created amazing paintings that were not cat related and we are showing these for the first time in over 20 years.”

Kuykendall was a published author and teacher and cats inspired a lot of her artwork including dolls, sculptures and paintings, according to Ricci.

“Karen developed several distinct styles of art over her lifetime,” Ricci says, adding that with over 1,000 pieces of her work, it was only natural to dedicate a room where visitors to the museum can enjoy it.