I hope you have some time to swing by Caitlin Hackett’s exhibition, Wilderness, this Friday night. Caitlin hit the ground running since her graduation from Pratt last year, and I'm super pleased to be featuring her work at the White Rabbit for the month of February. All of her works are on our online gallery here as well.
Friday, February 5th
145 E. Houston (btw Eldridge and Forsyth)
On view until March 9
Caitlin was kind enough to chat about what makes her creatures come to life and what keeps her busy these days — take a peak:
DE- Tell us about what inspires you?
CH- I am inspired in equal parts by science and fantasy, though I have always been inspired by the natural world, and the struggles that surround it. As I child I personified every tree and cat and stone, giving it a story and a life of it’s own, weaving a fantastical world around me filled with anthropomorphic creatures. I grew up on the “lost coast” of northern California, in a small town in the redwood forest. Growing up surrounded by the natural world, hiking and camping amongst the ancient trees and the rugged coast, it was easy to believe in the fantastical myths of faeries and ghouls, and combine them with what my father taught me about natural ecosystems. Now I continue to be inspired by these same sources, as well as the conflicts between humans and animals that arise due to our constant juggling of resources and near ceaseless expansion.
DE- What is the story behind your anthropomorphic creatures? How closely related to mythology are they, if at all?
CH- Ever since I was a child I always drew animals, and often I would invent species, going into great detail to create fantastical ecosystems for them, explaining how each aspect of their body helped them to survive in whatever world they lived in. I based these invented creatures both on real animals such as seals and bears, and also on mythological creatures. Growing up I was also exposed to a lot of local mythology, because the area of California I grew up in was also the traditional home of the Wiyot tribe, amongst many others. When I create my creatures now they come straight out of my head and may or may not end up representing my original idea once on paper, but this flexibility and transience in ideas is part of what makes it so enjoyable to make these monsters, they are never the same and they never come out exactly as I planned, much like the real world. Although I do not specifically or intentionally reference any mythology in my work now, I have certainly be influenced by it throughout my life, and those influences certainly have an affect upon, and show up in, my drawings.
DE- What’s your process look like?
CH- I most often work on more than one piece at a time, usually several smaller pieces and one large, because the large drawings take so long to complete I often get bored with them and need to work on other pieces as I go in order to release new ideas. I prefer to draw on the floor, but for the large drawings I have to put them all a wall for most of the process, but usually I move them back and forth between the wall and the floor to work on them. When I start a drawing I usually have a rough idea of what I want, and when it’s a smaller piece I usually just start right in without sketches, and see where it takes me. with my large drawings I often do smaller, rough sketches first, just to map out the composition, before I go into the piece, although even then the final drawing often ends up quite different from the original sketch. I work mostly in ball point pen and water color, and when I start a small drawing I often start with the ballpoint pen right away, unless I think the idea is going to change in which case I start with pencil. For the large pieces I always do a light sketch in pencil first, then go into it with the pen and ink. The water color is the final step of each drawing, and is often the part which takes the longest, as the first layer of paint I put on usually looks awful.
DE- Some of your works are quite large and exceptionally detailed. How long does a piece like your untitled two-headed bird drawing (see above) take to complete?
CH- That drawing took about six months to complete, at times I would work on it every day, and when I started to hate it too much I would pull out another piece of paper and start another drawing until I felt like I could look at it again. Even after I thought I had finished this drawing, I wound up going back into it again with more color a few months later. It’s hard to say that any of my drawings are ever really finished, with all of them I feel like I could go back in and do more, but the average time for completion for these large drawings is between four and six months. Now that I work and uphold a studio career the time it takes to complete a large drawing has been extended even longer, I spend so much time looking at these drawings that they become part of my dreams!
DE- The relationship between humans and animals generally seems to be a very important theme for you. Tell us about that…
CH- The interactions between humankind and the natural world have always interested me, I am fascinated by the idea of balance and boundaries between humans and animals, and the way in which we form these boundaries. I grew up surrounded by nature and was greatly influenced by it, when I draw I can’t help but draw creatures, they are the forms that come most naturally to me. I can see animal forms in almost anything, and the textures of fur and scales and skin will appear on the paper whether I intended them to or not, I can’t escape my desire to draw animals, and in drawing them, explore my own relationship to them. It is the collaboration with the viewer that has also helped me to study the relationship between humans and animals using my work, because everyone who has seen my drawings has had a different reaction and brought up a different story, legend, or scientific fact about the animal represented on the paper. No one ever has the same view of the same creature, we alter the very identities of the animals we see based on our own perspectives, and it is this ability to warp the metaphysical identity of animals that I allude to in my drawings.
DE- When did your appreciation for nature start?
CH- At a very young age, thanks to my parents, by the time I was two years old I had backpacked in the Rocky Mountains (or at least my father had carried my twin sister and I in his backpack through the rocky mountains). As a child I was obsessed with animals, when I was very little I thought I was a cat, and would run around on all fours through our house and backyard. I was taught to respect nature from a very young age, and spent my youth camping in the wilderness of California, playing on the rugged beaches of the north Pacific and exploring the many rivers that weave through the hills of Humboldt County. I cannot remember a time when I did not love the natural world or want to be a part of it.
DE- Many artists consider watercolor the hardest of all the painting mediums to work with. What are your impressions? Tips?
CH- Water color is certainly difficult to use at times, especially on a very large scale, I have to use 4 inch brushes to color in the back grounds of my larger drawings. I find water color to be relatively easy to use on a smaller scale, but it takes many layers of paint to color in my big drawings. I usually start with one layer of color and then build it up slowly, and the first layer of paint almost always looks terrible. The only tips I can really give are to have a lot of patience, and accept that it won’t look good right away! I love the luminosity of watercolor, and the way it reacts to the paper. I love working on paper, and watercolor suits the paper well, even if it’s challenging to work with at times.
DE- Do you have any pets, and do they ever take a role in your artwork?
CH- I have a cat in California, named after Mt. Shasta, he’s a giant tabby cat who my Dad and I found in a cardboard box in our town center when he was a kitten. Both of my room mates have cats which I helped them to get here in Brooklyn, one we adopted from the shelter when he was a kitten, the other I found on the side of the road and brought home last summer. I have always loved cats, and will no doubt be a crazy old cat lady some day! I am very interested in capturing textures in my drawings, and have furry pets has certainly been a good resource given how much fur I have in each drawing.
DE- Where can we see your work in 2010? Any exciting plans?
CH- The show at White Rabbit is the last one of seven shows that I’ve had since graduating from Pratt last May, currently I have no shows planned out after this one but hopefully that will change soon. I will have 10-16 drawings appearing in the sixth addition of the ColorInkBook, coming out this year though.
DE- Who are some of your favorite artists today?
CH- Some of my favorite artists are Walton Ford, Rune Olsen, Hannah Dougherty, Christopher Reiger, and Marlene McCarty.