Artist “Cat” Deuter, known as an extraordinarily gifted and accomplished artist, has finally come “back home.”
Residents of the Surface Creek Valley, who have lived here for more than just a few years, remember her distinctively beautiful and delicate paintings of Native Americans.
Catherine Anne Henderson (Cathy Ann to her mother) was born in Los Angeles in 1950 to Norma and Richard Henderson. Norma was, and is, an accomplished watercolor artist who takes great pride in being called “Cat’s mother.”
After graduating from Granada High School, Catherine worked as an emergency room nurse’s aide, and spent most if not all of her spare time drawing. Cat said she is self taught and has had no formal training as an artist, so she learned by copying pictures from an Edward S. Curtis book. Cat said she loved drawing animals, especially horses. “They were the only things I could draw. I wasn’t good with landscapes or with portraits,” she said.
In 1977 Catherine Ann Henderson left California and moved to Rapid City, S.D., to work as a waitress at Perkins Coffee Shop.
It was while living in South Dakota that she began doing portraits of Native Americans, especially the children, for which she is now famous. Her technique with colored pencils, watercolor and pastels creates a lifelike painting, rich in detail and color, nearly photographic in quality.
Cat developed an understanding of the Sioux culture and her artwork succeeds in capturing that culture, the traditions, the spirituality, the strength and the innocence of an indigenous people.
It was in Rapid City that she met “cowboy” artist Dan Deuter. Both had some of their artwork displayed at a local art gallery. In 1978, the two were married (it was Dan who nicknamed her “Cat”), and the pair worked as a team for several years before going their separate ways.
Cat was named South Dakota’s Artist of the Year two years in a row. She also took the blue ribbon for the “Best Graphic Drawing” at the Best of the West Show in Plano, Texas, and in 1992, Cat took home the “People’s Choice” award at the Edge of the Cedars Art Show in Cedaredge. Her work has earned countless other awards at juried competitions. Her art has been featured on the covers of Muzzleloader and Evener magazines, and she has been featured in Equine Images, the Art of the West magazine, and in the 1991 summer/fall issue of Steamboat magazine.
By the time she moved to Cedaredge in 1988, she had developed an incredible talent for colored pencil, pastels and oils, and her portraits of Native Americans proved to be as popular in Colorado as they were in South Dakota. Her work with animals and her almost obsessive attention to detail created paintings so lifelike that people often reached out to touch them.
Said Markee Travis, former owner of the Main Street Gallery in Cedaredge, “Cat began displaying her artwork with us shortly after we opened Main Street Gallery. Her colored pencil drawings were so amazingly realistic. I always enjoyed watching people reaching out to stroke the fur of one of her animal portraits.”
But Cat said that after 20 years of painting people she had finally grown weary. “I wanted to bring out the beauty of the Native American peoples,” said Cat, but she felt that she had done all she could, and that a change in direction was necessary to keep the excitement that she feels as an artist alive.
To that end, she turned to painting landscapes, with the same attention to detail that has made her an extraordinarily gifted artist. The result is landscapes that look all too real. Cat said her “hidden agenda is to create, and add to, the beauty of the world. I want people to see how beautiful their world is. And, if we don’t take care of it, it won’t be here.”
Painting landscapes and animals apparently offers her more creative freedom than portraits ever did. “Portraits have to be exact,” she explained, “and they have to look like the person you are painting.” Landscapes are open to interpretation, and animals can be modified to suit the whim of the artist, explained Cat. “If I don’t like a buffalo looking off to the left, I can simply paint it looking off to the right.”
The introduction of new water-based oil paints eliminated the necessity of having to work with toxic chemicals. That also influenced her decision to delve into working with other medium. She learned the finer points of mixing colors and how to keep her oil paints from drying out. She now works in every almost every conceivable medium, including oil, colored pencil, pastels, acrylics and watercolor.
Another well-known local artist, Suki Strong, said, “When I met Cat it seemed [as if] we had always known each other. I felt that she was an old soul that I might have known well in a past life and she felt the same. This is a quiet, unassuming woman, with a deep love of nature that inspires her work on every level.
“I feel I have always understood her passion for beauty in the natural world and her love of animals, as this is my inspiration as well. I know that we both love the beauty of our environments, our ‘critters’ and the quiet alone spaces in our lives. We both find a deep satisfaction in the peaceful meditation of our work no matter the medium we use, and I find Cat to be one of the most honestly talented and devoted artists that I have ever met. Her art expresses her soul and I am thrilled to have her back living close to me, and delighted to be able to call her ‘friend.’ ”
Cat also enjoys working with beads and gourds. She said the gourds are fun and natural to work with. Most of her gourds have been woodburned and have colorful, Native American-like symbols painted on the surface.
Throughout the month of February, samples of her paintings will be on display at both the Appleshed in Cedaredge and at the Western Colorado Center for the Arts in Grand Junction.