Athenaeum Art Center Gallery
The Origins of BunnyKitty: The Book Paintings
July 14 - September 13, 2018
Opening Reception: Saturday, July 14, 6-8 PM
Artist Talk: Saturday, August 11, 7 PM
From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays from July 17 through September 13, San Diegans and visitors alike can enhance their Chicano-Con experience by viewing an exhibition entitled The Origins of BunnyKitty: The Book Paintings at the Athenaeum Art Center in the Bread & Salt Building in Barrio Logan (1955 Julian Avenue, San Diego 92113). A reception will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, July 14.
The paintings comprise the illustrations for painter, author, and graphic artist Dave “Persue” Ross’s book The Origins of BunnyKitty: A Tale for All Ages. Published by Gingko Press in 2016, the book follows the adventures of a post-apocalylptic cat named Daisy who wears a bunny suit. The family book’s emphasis on being brave, rising to the occasion, acceptance, and solidarity correlates with the book’s origins.
In 2001, San Diego–native Dave “Persue” Ross—painter, author, and graphic artist—created the street art character BunnyKitty, who became an iconic image on the streets and alleys of San Diego. In 2002, he wrote the backstory for this character with the encouragement and editorial support of his mother, Diane Satenstein, but it took more than a decade to realize their dream.
By 2013, when Diane’s Alzheimer’s disease took hold after her final edits, Persue had not even painted the illustrations on view in the exhibitions, but with renewed motivation, he turned his main focus into getting the book finished and published before his mother died. The mounting pressure pushed him to move to his parent’s hometown, New York City, where he had to find ways to make money and a location to produce the paintings. With help from his fiancée, Alli Bautista, and his friends, his goals were realized. Persue worked 12-to-14-hour days, 6 days a week. In just 3 months, he had completed 26 hand-painted illustrations on 18” x 18” wood panels. It took the next two years for the book to be released. Initially it was self-published via crowdsourcing, along with bonus items, like plush toys. The campaign was successful, and campaign and the boutique California publisher Gingko published it.
Tragically, Diane, who was so supportive of the book, was not able to hold the book in her hands before she died. She had always expressed how proud she was of her son. This series of paintings for the book are the most prized possessions of the artist. They represent a collaboration between a mother and her son, and it is with enormous pleasure he presents them to the public for viewing for the first time.
In a March 22, 2016 CityBeat article by Seth Combs, Persue states, “When I wrote the character of Monny Bunny, the bunny mom that takes BunnyKitty in and sews her bunny suit, I pulled from the most warm and loving person I knew: my mom,” Ross says. “When my mom read it for the first time she realized that the character was her. She was touched.”
A pioneer in both the skateboarding and graffiti art movements, Persue has left his undeniable mark in both genres. He is an international artist recognized by his contemporaries worldwide, after having left his mark throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia starting in the early 1990s.
Persue says, “I want to create an icon and story that would reach a larger demographic than my graffiti art might; it went on to reach a cultlike following.
The Athenaeum Art Center, located at 1955 Julian Avenue in Logan Heights, in the Bread & Salt complex, is open Tuesday and Thursday, 10 am–4 pm, and for scheduled programs and classes.