As a retail manager by day and mixed-media artist by night, Lindsay Berry balances the new life she began in the Mile High with the reflexes of a street-wise alley feline.
“Does it smell like kitty litter in here?” Lindsay Berry asks when I arrive at her mellow Aurora Southlands apartment. Her grey tabby cat, RuPaw, meets us at the door with a hiss. “Oh, Ru, quit bein’ an asshole!” she scolds. The candy-sweet charm in her voice amends the candor.
She sniffs the air and snickers at my puzzled look. “I just cleaned Ru’s litter box, but if you smell kitty litter, tell me.” It actually smells very clean inside, which is a surprise, considering how the 23-year-old mixed media artist is a self-proclaimed “crazy cat lady“.
Berry’s a fan of chunky rings.
What does she like most about living in Metro Denver? “The BEER SELECTION!” she cheers, stretching her arms and fingers as high and wide as she can. I should have anticipated that answer, given the seriously hi-tech wine chiller in the kitchen, a pretty awesome collection of beer bottle caps, and other drink-related decor. The woman obviously loves her beer.
“Does it smell like kitty litter in here?”
The modern and cozy living room of her luxury, one bedroom flat has just enough warm light to notice the offbeat collection of cat figurines on every bookshelf. A contemporary dark-wood Chinese screen casually leans against the wall behind a collage-obscured computer desk. Back issues of Vogue, Cat Fancy, and fitness magazines cover a fashionably slender coffee table. Matchbox 20 plays softly in the background and Berry’s gone back to her bedroom to finish dressing. She’s cheerful and talkative, occasionally yelling about Marilyn Manson tickets for October or the Back-2-School fashion show she organized for her retail employer.
This girl, layered in colorful tattoos and piercings, isn’t the kind of girl who you’d expect to hear fawning and mewing over freakishly cute cat pictures. I can’t help but comment on the figurines and a detailed, close-up drawing of a cat that hangs on the wall.
“Catwalk”, Digital Photography, 2012
I hear her laugh from the bedroom when I ask about the obvious feline infatuation. “We lived in a trailer park in Louisiana and my babysitter’s cat had a litter of kittens.” The day after the litter was born, the babysitter’s daughter took one of the kittens outside to ‘give it a bath’ in a wagon full of rainwater. “She was drowning the little thing!” Berry remembers.
At 3-years-old, she realized the kitten was in trouble and ran to get the babysitter before anything happened. “The next day, I came home and there was a gift bag on my bed with the kitten I saved inside!” Since then, Berry’s curated an extensive collection of cat paraphernalia, to include several kitten-emblazoned shirts and a few kitty-themed tattoos. “Chloe was
A graffiti collage, varnished onto Berry’s computer desk.
with us for 16 years; She’s really the reason I’m such a crazy cat lady!” You’d have to be crazy about “woman’s best friend” to deal with Ru Paw’s bipolarity everyday. He springs from under the armchair I’m sitting in and successfully bites me on the back of the calf.
Was it something I said?
When she emerges, Berry brings some of her artwork to the living room. She’s changed into a tailored pair of distressed, straight-leg jeans, a white T-
Shirt, and studded combat boots. She’s tousled her hair in that perfectly meticulous, just-got-out-of-bed-because-I’ve-been-partying-all-night fashion and wears a sly smile. Kate Moss, circa Johnny Depp comes to mind…
A work in progress Berry began in August.
“My work is very abstract,” she says. “There’s never really a plan. If I find something I really want to use, like a cool stencil, I’ll base the rest of the piece off that. My personal style is sorta unplanned, in that sense.” Ru walks into the living room and lets outs a startling hiss. She pushes him away and continues, chuckling at her grumpy old man of a cat. “I might pick one piece that I really like, and go from there. It never seems to stay the same.” Each piece of her artwork is outrageously different from the next, ranging from in-camera photography to graffiti art and colorful 3-Dimensional collages. Unpredictable Mr. Ru Paw is a fitting, occasional subject of Berry’s work, as he seems to have changed his mind about me and snuggles up to my feet. Maybe it’s the lighting. I’m feeling a little bit more comfortable, myself.
Berry’s stencils and spray paint
She tells me about her family who visit her often and how close they are. After dealing with a major break-up in 2009 she picked up and moved out of her parents house near Salt Lake City, Utah to live in San Antonio, Texas as a retail management trainee. Once hired as a full-time retail manager, her company transferred her to a local store in Aurora. “I was really young and my heart was completely broken. I really just wanted to move on and then here’s this awesome career opportunity.”
Berry shows off her tattooed sleeve.
It’s a gorgeous day so we decide to hang out in the city. The sun hangs high over Denver and its nearly 95 degrees out. The 25 minute drive to 16th Street Plaza seems like an hour. Of course, when Berry moved to Colorado in 2010, she didn’t realize how far her apartment would be from her favorite parts of town (the one thing she dislikes about her new home). “I live all the way out in Botswana! Everything’s far away from me.” This doesn’t stop her from finding her way all around the Mile High. She explores the city at every chance. “I don’t like to just sit in the house. There’s a lot to do here.”
Downtown traffic is slow, pedestrians throng the sidewalks and there are detour signs on almost every corner. Berry looks out the window at the chaos. “Oh, my God, this is ridiculous–wait, isn’t Taste of Colorado still going on today?” She laughs at our ill-preparation.
“Self-Portrait”, Mixed Media, 2012
We park somewhere in Capitol Hill and walk toward no particular destination. She makes it easy to just laugh and talk about everything from ex-boyfriends to horrible bosses. By the time we circle back to my car, 3 hours have passed and it starts to rain. Berry rides with the window rolled down, appreciating the coolness of the water after such a long day in the sun. “When I get home, I’m gonna find a place to just lay out in a field and get rained on,” she says. I can’t tell if she’s joking or not.
She runs her hands through her damp hair as she gets out of the car and we say goodbye. She trudges up the steps to her apartment. The crazy cat lady manages to still look effortlessly cool, even drenched in rain. She must have missed the “floral print tent dress and orthopedic shoes ” memo at the last cat lady convention. We’re not complaining.