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Feb 2003 / the ordinary eye :: email this story to a friend

Lilly the Cat
By Gen Obata

[Click on the thumbnail images to enlarge them.]

Lilly the Cat – The Official Story
In 1999, a meteor lands near the Climatron in the Missouri Botanical Garden.  Small, plantlike aliens, here to investigate the earth for possible use as a sports park, spend their days hiding in the Shoenberg Temperate House disguised as trumpet plants.  (It turns out that the flies here are rather tasty.)
The aliens begin experimenting with insects and stray cats to create giant creatures to help them to investigate the city.  They start by cloning some honeybees that fly around the Botanical Garden scaring visitors until they are eaten by the many giant carp in the Japanese Garden.  A few bees are captured and turned into an exhibit.
The aliens' next experiment is to clone a stray cat they call Lilly.  She is first seen playing around the Botanical Garden, a mere 10 feet tall.  But she keeps growing.  Visitors worry she is too heavy to be climbing on the Climatron. Here she is seen at the entrance to the Chinese Garden.
Lilly keeps growing and it becomes too difficult to make Lilly stay at the Botanical Garden (she is a cat, you know). Soon she is roaming around the city, checking out various parks where she can spend her time playing and sleeping. Here she checks out the fountain by the World's Fair Pavilion.
When she's resting, most people don't even notice her.  She becomes part of the building or landscape on which she's lying.  Here Lilly mimics a giant gargoyle as she reclines on the Missouri History Museum.
But sometimes she causes traffic problems when she plays in the street.  Here she is seen in the Delmar Loop playing with the Lion Gates. Traffic did get backed up, but nobody was injured.
Then there was the time she was playing a little too aggressively with the statue of St. Louis by the Art Museum ... and lost her balance.
The worst incident occurred when she interrupted a Cardinal baseball game by lying in the middle of the field and refusing to move until a truckload of cat treats was brought in.
Unfortunately, Lilly grew so large that her playing eventually damaged some buildings downtown and threatened to destroy the Gateway Arch.
Luckily, the aliens finally figured out how to reduce Lilly's size to a more manageable 15 feet tall.   She now lives on top of the City Museum where people passing by are heard to say, "That's just another one of Bob Cassilly's crazy creations."

Lilly the Cat ­ The Unofficial Story

In 1999, we found Lilly at the Humane Society, fell in love with her and immediately adopted her.  Lilly is an incredibly expressive cat and is constantly posing for photographs.

During the summer of 2001, while our kids were at camp, my wife suggested I send them a photograph of Lilly.  I decided that no simple photograph would do, so I created the image of Lilly grabbing the Gateway Arch. I've never had so many comments on an image as I received on that photograph.

Before the summer, I had taken a lot of photographs for the book Architecture for Kids, written by Lee Ann Sandweiss and illustrated by Phyllis Harris.  That experience had sent me all over the city looking at places that would be interesting for kids.  So I looked over my images of St. Louis and began finding places for Lilly to visit, too.

Since working on the Lilly in St. Louis series, I have included her, after the fact, on all of our family trips.  Now Lilly has been to Kansas City, San Francisco, New York and a few other places. Here's Lilly sitting on top of a cable car in San Francisco.

Gen Obata is a St. Louis native who resides near Forest Park with his two cats, Lilly and Rodney, and wife Rebecca, a civil rights attorney, and their two daughters. Besides taking photographs, Gen writes songs and plays in two local bands, Seldom Home and Raven Moon. Check out his web site at  The Lilly images are in the Notecards section.  By the way, St. Louis artist Kathleen Weltzen created the bees shown above.

Images Copyright © 2001 - 2003 Gen Obata

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