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Doug DeLind uses his cat as inspiration to design whimsical piece | 2022 Lansing ArtPath Profiles

Doug DeLind sits on the Cat Bench, petting Shirley who is eating a treat.
Sophia Saliby
Shirley was picked up as a stray by DeLind's family about 15 years ago.

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It’s the 5th anniversary of the Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center’s ArtPath exhibition.

Throughout June, WKAR will be bringing you profiles of some of the participating artists who have work installed along the Lansing River Trail.

Doug DeLind's piece can be found between Old Town and downtown Lansing and is modeled after a furry friend he shares his studio with.

DeLind is known for what he calls totemic abstract figures. They’re made of clay and designed freehand. He uses everyday objects like a ravioli cutter or a fly swatter to make patterns within the clay.

"I look at a lot of the way different peoples and different civilizations make their work. And I want to, basically, want to make a totemic figure for today," he said. "I use a lot of things that are found within our society."

But his piece for ArtPath this year is a slight departure from his typical medium.

"I get bored.  There's a certain amount of whimsy that I always feel is necessary to make a smile."

So, he took his inspiration from an important part of his life.

"This piece is a bench and it's modeled after our cat, Shirley," he explained.

The piece is aptly named Cat Bench. DeLind designed it and had it made out of recycled plastic for the seat and aluminum at the ends.

This piece is a bench and it's modeled after our cat, Shirley.

One of those end pieces portrays the silhouette of Shirley as if she was facing you, with tall ears and big eyes. The other end has a swirl cut into it to look like her fluffy tail.

"She's a calico with long hair. Her face has got little black lines on her eyes like a leopard, so she's got quite a stare."

The bench is actually one of several DeLind commissioned a few years ago. Two are in Mason while another is in someone’s backyard.

Doug DeLind, is usually a ruled and wooden stick to make marks in a large piece of clay. Shirley, a calico cat, has her nose down to the clay.
Sophia Saliby
Shirley likes to investigate DeLind's work in his studio.

Shirley has been a part of DeLind’s family for about 15 years. She was picked up as a stray when she was a kitten but has since staked her claim in the studio down the hill from DeLind’s house in Mason.

She has three different beds to choose from depending on where, and how loud, DeLind is working.

"She lives in the studio with me," he said. "She's easily trained and attracted whenever you say treats."

DeLind keeps those treats in an old tin to coax Shirley away from the pieces he works on.

"She usually likes to leave her marks on wet clay pieces that I've laid out. I've gotten into the habit of putting cardboard over pieces when I'm done with them."

She interrupts from time to time when she wants to be fed or petted, but otherwise, she makes no comments on my work which is absolutely perfect.

But despite her sometimes mischievous nature, DeLind calls cats like Shirley the perfect studio mates.

"She's never broken anything. She never, well, she usually doesn't care what I do," he said.

"She interrupts from time to time when she wants to be fed or petted, but otherwise, she makes no comments on my work which is absolutely perfect."

You can find Doug DeLind’s Cat Bench on the Lansing River Trail at the Oakland Avenue Trail Head south of Burchard Park near the fish ladder.

Sophia Saliby is the local producer and host of All Things Considered, airing 4pm-7pm weekdays on 90.5 FM WKAR.
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