Art Attack: Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s Cathy Bennett Pick Her Favorite Artwork

Whether it’s a painting, photograph, or hand-painted ceramic tchotchke from your Aunt Alice, most everyone has one piece of art that truly resonates with them. We’re putting out the call to ask, “What’s your favorite piece of art?”


Next up, Cathy Bennett, senior vice president of Public Policy for the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, says she and her husband Mike McGuire are “voracious collectors of art from local artists, galleries and salvage stores, and many art fairs.” Bennett adds with her work with the KC Chamber she has had the opportunity to escort trips to China and Cuba. “Art hunting was how I would try to spend my free time on the trips,” she says.

On a trip to Cuba, Bennett got in a little retail therapy buying art across the island. She narrowed down her favorite art to two paintings of—as she calls them—smoking fish heads. Entitled Proyecto-Pescadoner, they were purchased in 2012 in Caibarien, Cuba, “a precious artists hamlet in the northern part of the island,” says Bennett. “The artist signs his work C. Mass. We met him in his tiny, partially outdoor studio, but did not catch his formal name.  I have been trying to track him down on the internet ever since.”

What’s the appeal/allure of said artwork to you?
“I love these pieces because they are unlike anything else I have seen in years of looking at art.  This poor man (or is he a very fortunate man?) has fish above him and fish beneath him. Human ears become fins. Seashells for brains. I swear those are oars as earrings. One fish wears a crown, the other a tower on top of his head. Does this suggest the fish has won and dominates the man? Or does it just mean this guy is covered in fish and can’t escape? The subjects are all in shades of gray and white with color just around the edges, suggesting monotony on the inside—maybe?”

Is there a backstory to the artwork?
“We were traveling by bus with a tour group from Havana to a resort on the northern coast.  We stopped in Caibarien to see one of the oldest printing presses still in use in the Americas. (This gorgeous machine is a piece of art in and of itself.)

The tour guide gave us an hour to browse around the town and mentioned she had an artist friend with an open studio a couple of blocks away. After traversing down one gorgeous, ramshackle, peeled-paint street after another, my husband and I finally found the studio and could not believe the work we found. Beautiful, colorful, landscapes, abstracts, portraits, outsider art and more. We knew the bus would be leaving soon. (I was the escort, so I was pretty confident they would not leave without me.) But we still needed to select a piece of art, make the purchase, and find our way back to the bus in the town square. The good news is we did not have to bargain on the price. It was embarrassingly undervalued and I truly felt we should give the artist more. Instead, we purchased two smoking fish heads a third painting by a different artist, plus three funky sketches for gifts.”

What catches your eye about the work?
“For years the paintings hung in our sunroom. I have recently moved them to the dining room where they enjoy much more appreciation and conversation. I’m still trying to locate C. Mass. I would love to see what else he is doing, tell him how popular his art is with visitors to our home—and I should probably give him a check to supplement the purchase price and reflect the real value of his work.”