A Field Guide to the Chinati Cats

by Theresa Bembnister September 6, 2010


Marie and Bruce...Photo by Logan Caldbeck


You’ve come to expect insightful commentary and hard-hitting reporting from No Country for Old Interns on Glasstire.com, and this post is no exception. The Chinati Foundation may house permanent installations by renowned contemporary artists, but the museum is also home to six cats, all former strays. Up to this point, no serious scholarship has been conducted on the provenance of Chinati’s cat collection. With this post, I’ve set out to remedy that.


Age: At least 16
Distinguishing characteristics: Looks like a puma
Hang-out spot: The chair on the porch next to Apartment 7
Personality: Friendly and loyal
Favorite pastime: Waiting by the doors of the intern apartments in the hopes that someone will let him inside
Fun fact: Puma has been known to go hunting and bring back “gifts” for his favorite interns.

Bruce...Photo by Grace Davis

Age: 8
Distinguishing characteristics: Desert camouflage—Bruce’s coat blends in with grass and dirt
Hang-out spot: All over
Personality: Fun-loving and adventurous
Favorite pastime: Following collection tours
Fun fact: Bruce may have a masculine name, but she’s a female cat. With her lithe form and athletic lifestyle, Bruce couldn’t be more different from her sister, Marie, the resident fat cat.


Age: 8
Distinguishing characteristics: Annoyed look
Hang-out spot: Visitor services desk
Personality: Lethargic
Favorite pastime: Being petted by museum visitors
Fun fact: Marie positions herself for maximum petting by museum visitors—usually on the visitor services desk or in one of the bookstore windowsills. With her gray and white fur, she matches the austere aesthetic of the bookstore, with its blank white walls and gray concrete floors. Marie is a plus-sized fashionista—she once was featured on notable fashion blog Sea of Shoes.

Emma...Photo by Andrew Fulcher

Age: At least 16
Distinguishing characteristics: All-black fur
Hang-out spot: Development offices or underneath the table in the office courtyard
Personality: Whiny
Favorite pastime: Sleeping, eating
Fun fact: You don’t have to worry about this black cat crossing your path. Emma doesn’t move much these days—she mostly walks from her favorite napping spot to the food bowl and back.


Age: 10
Distinguishing characteristics: Tortoise-shell fur, torn ear
Hang-out spot: Will occasionally join Marie on the visitor services desk
Personality: Scrappy
Favorite Pastime: Wandering
Fun fact: Salvy is the only Chinati cat who dares to leave the museum property. Maybe that’s how she got that torn ear. 

Buster...Photo by Aurora Tang

Age: At least 2
Distinguishing characteristics: White with black- and gray-striped spots
Hang out spot: Near the apartments
Personality: Moody
Favorite Pastime: Rolling around in the dirt, pouncing
Fun fact: Buster is technically the associate director’s cat, but he also lives on the museum grounds. 

Bonus photo: Marie Catoinette

Photo by Leigh Arnold

Disclosure: I am an intern at the Chinati Foundation, hence the blog name. No cats were harmed in the making of this post. In fact, they enjoyed the extra attention.
If you’ve visited the Chinati Foundation and met one of the cats, feel free to share your story in the comments section. 




logan September 6, 2010 - 10:06

A flickr search for “chinati” “cat” brings up some gems. These cats are famous.
http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=chinati cat

Dan September 11, 2010 - 18:14

…and a much needed introduction to the Chinati felines.

mark_rosen828 September 17, 2010 - 11:17

Finally a deserved nod to the cats that we ex-interns still talk about today!

That last one of Marie is priceless. Might I add that miss ma’am was also almost in W magazine when they shot on the property. Had her time in the arms of some Brazilian model out by the concrete works and everything.

Elizabeth A November 18, 2011 - 20:41

Do you have any photos of the boxes that the cats sleep in? I remember there being little boxes with straw inside that some of the cats liked to get inside…

Jonathan October 29, 2014 - 22:41

Puma is the best and loyal.. He would hang out in our apt(#13) when I was interning.. Great to see he is still sweet and hanging around..

Paula Newton October 30, 2014 - 11:36

Damn! I totally missed this article the first time round. This is some brilliant critical art journalism! (One of the few kickstarter campaigns I’ve contributed to is for the upcoming book, Cat is Art Spelled Wrong, from Coffee House Press and and my buds at Walker Art Center: http://blogs.walkerart.org/ecp/2014/08/25/cat-is-art-spelled-wrong-making-a-book-about-cat-videos/)

Christina Rees October 30, 2014 - 12:03

Oh, man. This is an excellent, excellent post. Perhaps I’ll comment on it once a week to keep it visible.

Troy Schulze October 30, 2014 - 14:14

Does anyone know if Marie and Bruce were named in honor of Wallace Shawn?

Troy Schulze October 30, 2014 - 16:27

Of course they were. I wasn’t taking into account the age of the cats and the date on this article. The math works out. And I attended the performance.


Kelly O'Connor November 3, 2014 - 12:49

I cannot believe all these cats are still alive! I was a Chinati intern in 2005. When I arrived Marie was recovering from a Brown Recluse bite, we didn’t think she would make it. I let her sleep with me a few nights until she felt better. Bruce was super wild and a favorite of Marianne’s. We loved Puma!

Will Cutting November 4, 2014 - 08:41

“… So I guess you could say this barely qualifies as news. I’m Kent Brockman”. I do love cats though


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