Oh Lila–You Wove so many Cat Tapestries!

I have been preparing for my Zoom webinar with Vesterheim Folk Art School. It’s tomorrow, September 22. The cut-off for signing up is early Tuesday morning. Sign up for “From Kindness to Cutting Satire: Lila Nelson’s Tapestries Embraced the World and Its Politics.” A Conversation with Robbie LaFleur.” (The talk will be available on the Vesterheim website for a short time following the talk; I will post a link.)

Going through all the images I have of Lila’s work, I am struck that she wove so many cats. Obviously she loved cats, but she didn’t own one the whole time I knew her. Famously, she wove a series of “terrorist cats.”

After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Lila had strong opinions about some of our government responses, and she went to the loom to express them. She said this: “When we started to have all these orange and yellow alerts, I began to feel we were just being horribly manipulated, and there was this effort to make American people scared to death so that we would accept anything that was thrown at us, and it annoyed me. So I refused to take the alert things seriously and I wanted to make fun of them.”

Most of the terrorist cats were tabbies, but there were Siamese too.

There will be more terrorist cat images in my lecture, but I didn’t include many of these “less dangerous” cat images.

“The Cat.” I JUST noticed while writing this blog entry that there are cat eyes along the top of this tapestry.

Some cats were with birds…they might be dangerous cats in those settings.

“In a Pear Tree” (Watch out, partridge in the pear tree!)
“Parrot and Cat”
“The Enemy”

A marvelous big cat…

“Lurking Tiger”

And my favorite–a black cat immersed in color…

“Cat in the Forest”

Finally, here is a cat who is weaving, a combination of two things Lila loved. The Norwegian words translate to, “And the cat set up his loom in the corner, where it stood for a hundred years. He wove in sticks and straw and all the chaff from the floor, and then the weaving was done!” 

I miss Lila and have loved this opportunity to examine her tapestries again and share them through the Vesterheim webinar.


  1. Robbie, I have a Lila tapestry that is an enlarged version of your fav cat in a forrest …It came with a Yeats quote from Lila and includes his golden eyes. I’ll try to get a good picture of it and send to you. It’s wonderful. I got it as part of a trade, she wanted a rug for by her bed and we shared a love of cats. I definitely got the better part of the trade. Paula


  2. This was just what my heart needed. I had a long talk with a dear friend today about how fear is used to manipulate. The friend, as with so many of my friends, had no inkling of what I was talking about. Dear Lila, you’ve made my day.