Pondering aloud in her native Japanese, the young woman quizzically whispers, “A cat?” Having spied a streak of fur race into a dimly-lit corner, she cautiously approaches the area only to vaguely make out a small, furry object in the shadows. Peering at it more closely, this seemed to be a very unusual kind of feline: a bipedal beast, supported by a pair of boots on its hind feet, its body covered in a smart coat, brass buttons holding the thick cloth fixedly in place. Even considering all of this, the most fantastical aspect must’ve been the deer-like horns that rose gracefully from its forehead. “Hello,” it mewed, “I’m Morris, the cat with antlers.”

A Cat with Antlers?

Perhaps if Michael Bond had conceived Morris — The Cat with Antlers then that introductory paragraph would’ve been this peculiar feline’s origin. Though derived from the same lineage as Bond’s Paddington Bear and Beatrix Potter‘s Peter Rabbit, this adorable hybrid was created not by a writer but rather an artist, Kaori Hinata. A winner of 2008’s Monchhichi Dress Design Contest and a finalist for 2009’s FEWMANY Award, Hinata began garnering international attention with her inclusion in Max Toy Company‘s Kaiju Gals competition, her entry Kinora becoming the artist’s first vinyl sculpture. Then, only five months after this mushroom monster’s debut at Design Festa vol. 41 in May of 2015, Hinata introduced her handmade and handpainted resin creation Rabin (ラビン), a horned rabbit creature.

Having associated her Hinatique branding with “The Cuteness of Antiques and Nostalgia” aesthetic, these values were embodied within Hinata’s Morris — The Cat with Antlers design, the feel of illustrative anthropomorphism from vintage children’s stories encompassing its appearance. Shortly after the debut of Morris at the Taipei Toy Festival in October of 2016, Medicom Toy contacted Hinata about reproducing the form, reimagining it to a smaller size for the brand’s Vinyl Artist Gacha (or VAG) series. A mere month after its initial VAG issuing, the original resin form’s “full size” transitioned into a vinyl rendition and, offered less-than-a-year later, a massive Jumbo Artist Monsters (or JAM) version. With all factory-produced vinyl sizes of Morris — The Cat with Antlers represented within its most recent outing, a solo showcase at the Clutter Gallery, the Morris in New York exhibition is a beautifully visual “love letter” to the design.

Kaori Hinata’s Morris in New York Solo Exhibition

Situated amongst framed prints derived from Hinata’s Morris — The Cat with Antlers picture book, published as part of Medicom’s TEHON series in June of 2017, a vast array of the character’s sculptural renditions cultivate a magical impression. Mingling the mystical nature of felines with the most sacred element of the deer, Morris — The Cat with Antlers remains relatable because, at its core, it has an unpretentious nature. Not simply draped in clothing, a thick coating of humanity’s innocence covers this creation, as revealed through its whimsical smirk, wide-eyed wonderment, and non-predatory friendship with two mice. Perhaps best exemplified within Hinata’s collaborative sculpture and publication with Guk Ling “Yoyo” Yeung, The Book of Love, which exudes a sense of unadulterated adoration between the two characters, detailed within each subtle gesture and precisely-conceived positioning. In the end, gazing upon Morris in New York is like looking at a funhouse mirror: a distorted reflection of us, except one that only embodies our best qualities.

Kaori Hinata’s Morris in New York solo exhibition at the Clutter Magazine Gallery had its opening reception on Saturday, June 8th from 6-9pm, with all works in this exhibition remaining on display until July 5th, 2019 at the gallery’s physical location (163 Main Street, Beacon, NY 12508).

View the gallery’s dedicated page for the Morris in New York exhibition

For more information on Kaori Hinata:
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