We Crawl with Four Paws: the Pretenders in a Catopia

Detail from “We Crawl with Four Paws”


Artist’s Statement
About the Artist

We Crawl with Four Paws is an ongoing mural project featuring the work of Chen Bi, a current MFA student in the School of Art and the Fenwick Gallery Graduate Assistant.

Artist’s Statement

My work, “We crawl with four paws: the pretenders in a Catopia,” seeks refuge in the tranquility and simplicity of a pet’s life in a world overwhelmed with the complexities of human existence. This mural is an exploration of my desire to momentarily hide from the cacophony of society, seeking solace and comfort in the silent whispers of my cat Sesame’s existence. 

Anthropomorphism is a tendency that can enrich our emotional lives and fulfill a deep psychological need for companionship and understanding. Believing that animals share our feelings can make us feel less alone in the world—it comforts us from fearing loneliness, significance, or mortality. The notion that animals share our emotions can make the universe feel less cold and indifferent.

Psychologist Veronique Servais states, “to make sense of something is to be able to share a story with it, and this is how people make their environment – both human and non-human– relevant.”

Drawing inspiration from this sentiment, “Catopia” is not merely a depiction of an alternate reality, but a narrative. It captures a shared story, a bridge connecting our human complexities with the candid simplicity of the animal world.  

This Catopia is a space that allows us to be authentic, relaxed, and truly free. The intimate moments we share with our pets, often unnoticed, offer a glimpse into a realm untainted by a narrowing understanding of this human-domained planet.  

The piece is not merely an escape: we also encounter the subtle dance between the anthropomorphic desires of humans and the unperturbed lives of animals. It is a testament to the human yearning for transformation, from the biped to the quadruped, from the human to the animal—a dream of becoming a creature untouched by social norms and unburdened by expectations, a creature that lives in the present and finds joy in the most ordinary.  

This dream (fascination) is rooted in tales of old where humans find themselves in animal forms, either as a lesson or a liberation. As a lesson, becoming animals is often due to a curse or because of some flaw in the character, and transformation might symbolize the loss of one’s identity, agency, and voice. However, it is alternately seen as liberation from social expectations. 

As I construct this utopia, the contours of reality blur, and the border between human and animal dissolves. It became an enchanting world where stress is a forgotten language, and the purring rhythm of contentment becomes our shared song.

We Crawl with Four Paws: the Pretenders in a Catopia is an ongoing installation in Fenwick Gallery. Viewers can watch its progress live in the gallery or on Instagram, @fenwickarts.

About the Artist

With a rich background as a multicultural comic artist, Chen Bi possesses an expansive knowledge across Chinese, American, and Japanese art traditions. Her expertise encompasses both traditional and digital mediums, from painting to drawing, advanced comic techniques and even graphic design. She is a current MFA student in George Mason University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, and has been the Graduate Research Assistant for Fenwick Gallery since 2021.


Closing reception & artist talk
Thursday, September 7, 3:00-4:00PM, Fenwick Gallery

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