“Where does the name ‘BZTAT’ come from?” I get asked that question a lot. “BZTAT” is a nickname of sorts that I started using in 2001 to sign my paintings. Why, you ask?
I exhibited my artwork in a contemporary folk art festival in the summer of 2001. Many of the other artists there had interesting nicknames, each with a story behind their name. I thought, “I, too, have a story,” and I decided to adopt a nickname myself.
So here is the story behind the name.
The story began on Valentine’s Day in 1985 when I was a graduate art student at Marshall University (Huntington, WV). Awaiting a ride, I had gone out onto my front porch. As I was about to sit down, I discovered a small black and white cat fast asleep on the porch chair.
I was struck by the simple beauty of this small creature, and my first thought was, “I have to paint a picture of that cat!” I gently stroked her soft fur, and she purred the sweetest purr I had ever heard. She lifted her small head and rubbed her cheeks on my hand like she had known me forever. We bonded instantly.
My ride arrived, and I had to leave the cat there on the porch. I shared the joy of meeting this beautiful creature with the friend who drove me to a volunteer crisis counseling training program that evening. I could not wait to get back home to see if the cat was still there. Sadly, she was gone when I returned home after the training progam.
I was ecstatic, however, the next day, to find her, again, fast asleep on the porch chair! From that point forward, she became my companion and confidant; traveler and troubadour; fellow artist and adventurer.
I brought the cat inside where she became the supreme ruler. I named her Rembrandt, not for the artist, but for the paintings. I was always amazed at how Rembrandt the artist could make the most ordinary things look extraordinary, and this ordinary stray cay was the most extraordinary animal I had ever met. For 19 years, she was my muse, being the subject of countless drawings, paintings and other artworks.
A friend shortened her name to “R.B.”, and I began calling her “R.Beezie”. The “R” eventually was dropped, and I started calling her “Beezie-tat”. Reminiscent of Tweetie Bird, I used to say to her, “I tawt I taw a Beezie-tat! I deed! I deed! I deed tee a Beezie-tat!” The name stuck and remained with her through the years.
Beezie was by my side through 3 interstate moves, a few unrealized relationships, and numerous trials and tribulations as I grew into an independent adult. Inspired by that volunteer crisis program, I went back to school and earned a second Master’s Degree in Counseling. Beezie was beside me the whole way as I developed a career as a counselor and painted paintings in my spare time.
Two other cats joined our household, and although she tolerated them, she always showed them clear disdain.
Her personality was a great study in paradoxes: She was soft and gentle, yet quick with a hiss and claws if you crossed her; she was gregarious and friendly, but also aloof and independent; she was loyal and steadfast, yet always her own self and clearly “the boss”. Did our personalities mirror each other, or did our souls merge? I still do not know the answer to that question. I do know that she and I shared many similarities.
The last few years of her life, Beezie’s eyesight was poor, and she had thyroid problems, but her spirit was strong up to the very end. I wanted to believe that she would outlive me, but it was not to be. Finally, one day, her heart just gave out. Dr. Jeff, who had kept her healthy for so long, cried along with me on that final day. I buried her in a spot behind my then home in Dellroy, OH. I thought that I would die along with her.
The hardest part of losing her was not having her there to help me through the pain of loss. She had been with me through every crisis and heartache of my adult life, but she was not there to help me through the worst loss I had ever encountered. My other two cats gave me comfort, but it wasn’t the same.
What helped me through it was her spirit that lived on in the paintings. Everywhere I looked, there she was, staring out at me from a canvas. Although she was always a small cat, never getting over 8 lbs., I had always painted her in large scale. She was always bigger than life to me, and the paintings reflected that. She still is bigger than life, as far as I am concerned.
One of the cats who was part of the “Beezie era”, Slick, is still alive and well. I also have 3 other feline companions now. All are very special to me. They are all aware, though, that Beezie was the great one, and that all cats in my life live in her glow. They are all my artistic muses as well as my endearing companions, and I love each one with all my heart.
If that makes me a crazy cat lady, so be it. There are worse things to be in life.
And that is the story behind the name.
Life is an Adventure!
Would you like a custom pet portrait of your pet? BZTAT will paint your animal for a very reasonable price. For information, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow works in progress by BZTAT on Twitter by searching #bztatptg.