by Naomi Mansfield
I’ve admired Naomi Mansfield’s Bitcats for a while now, peaking at her PC monitor through open doors when I was at her house, lurking her tumblr for new updates. The themes explored are sometimes esoteric, sometimes band-related, and sometimes just plain hilarious, always rendered in Naomi’s signature mastery of MS Paint. The program I used to create shitty renditions of my dream home in the third grade becomes artful in her hands, the constraints the software necessitates part of the surreality of her work. I thought about it, and if I ever were to be immortalized in a portrait, I’d want it to be a Bitcat.
Liz Wood for YYY: How long have you been doing the Bitcats, and where did the motivation come from originally? Naomi Mansfield: I’ve been making them for about four years. They started on a whim. I always try to find ways to incorporate things that felt magical as a kid into my life as an adult. MS Paint was one that just creeped into my consciousness one day, and I decided to open up the program and give it a whirl. The first one I did was a scene of my cat on a ship floating through rainbow clouds. After the first, I found myself thinking about MS Paint scenarios daily. The act of making them was not only meditative, but finally connected me to that feeling I had as a kid that can be so difficult to access as an adult.
YYY: There’s a lot of nostalgic internet art out there right now, pixellated gifs and comments on the original internet age on display in galleries. How do you feel your work does or does not fit in with those pieces? NM: To be honest, I'm so disconnected with that world. I imagine that my inspiration comes from the same place. For me at least, it has nothing to do with the Internet. I can't even figure out how to fix the Internet on my ancient computer, I have to use a thumb drive to upload my cats elsewhere. For me, the Internet just happens to be an incredible means for sharing things. What I would hope I have in common with the others is a nostalgia for an innocent time when life was simple and everything was new and exciting. The dawn of the Internet just happens to be the most wondrous of our generation.
YYY: At this point, you have a pretty hefty body of work. What’s next for Bitcats? For instance: if I asked, and you liked the work, would you be willing to illustrate my collection of short stories? Just a hypothetical. Or do you see yourself exploring a particular idea in a series? NM: I’m aching to do more with them. At this point, all of the ones I have done have been products of my day dreams and have just been put up on social media sites for people I know to possibly notice them. I want to do something aside from just putting them on the Internet and there are a few avenues that I have been exploring in regards to the pieces I already have and the ones to come. I'm really excited to have my first ever show with them in print. I've also been looking into making totes, mugs, cards and whatever else may just end up in the bottom of people's closets. As for future creations, I love the idea of collaborations. The challenge of bringing someone else's thoughts to life is very intriguing!