We had a chance to talk with Bay Area artist Caitlin Hackett about her inspiration and works for Feral Creatures group exhibition curated by Stephanie Chefas in January, 2014.
ME: What was your initial reaction to the theme of "Feral Creatures" and from where did you draw inspiration for this show?
CH: I was quite taken with the theme of the show, since my work revolves around wild creatures and pseudo mythical animals of all kinds it was a perfect fit for me. I am particularly taken with the word ‘feral’ and have been for some time, it’s a word that connotes a ferocious return in my mind; a return to wilderness, the transformation of a domesticated creature into a wild one once again. There is a rawness in the connotation of ‘feral’, as though the docile layers had been peeled back to reveal some truer form of the beast, within a concept that has long enchanted me. The two pieces I created for this show both feature endangered bird species, the Florida Sandhill Crane and the Southern Bald Ibis, each caught in a moment of both destruction and creation, new life springing forth despite the impending threat on the horizon. I knew right away that I wanted to feature endangered species in my work for this exhibition, although I do believe that a truly wild creature is entirely different in nature from a feral one, there is still something of a feral beauty to these endangered creatures, a rawness to their image brought about by the precarious probability of their survival. Although neither bird species have been domesticated by human kind their very existence has been subjugated by human expansion due to our ferocious appetite for land and resources. We are ceaselessly encroaching on their already limited habitat, whittling the land away, leaving these birds as tattered ghosts. It is the potential loss of creatures like these that make me want to go feral myself.
ME: Do you have any wild animal stories?
CH: I grew up in the forests of northern California, among the towering redwood trees and on the rocky coast of the Pacific. I grew up camping and hiking, and developed a great love for wild creatures from a young age. As for wild animal stories, I had a recent exciting animal interaction when I was visiting Cape Cod last summer, I got to swim alongside some sea lions there on the Atlantic side of the Cape in Wellfleet. They were enormous, at least 7 ft long, there were two of them moving smoothly side by side, and they popped up a few feet away from me as I was paddling along. It was a bit terrifying to be so close to them to be honest, they showed up so suddenly and were so large, but it was a remarkable experience to be so near. They were swimming parallel to the beach, coming within two yards of the shore and swimming where the sand bank fell away into a deeper channel.I also grew up with countless deer, foxes and raccoon roaming through my backyard since we backed into the state forest.And of course I grew up in what they call Bigfoot Country in northern California, though so far I've never seen one, but my fingers are crossed every time I go camping.
ME: What is your art process?
CH: I start with a concept, sometimes I’m inspired by dreams that I have, other times by current environmental events/disasters or certain endangered animals, and other times I am inspired by fairy tales or myths I have read, more often than not some combination of all of those things. I then begin the piece with a light pencil sketch, after which I will ink the piece in using ballpoint pen typically, although sometimes I use micron pen as well. After the inking stage I watercolor over the piece, then go back over the watercolor with more ink and colored pencil.
ME: What’s your daily life like? What are some things you do when you’re not painting / making art?
CH: My daily life is pretty quiet honestly, I’m a bit of a hermit, I work from home and spend a lot of time with my cats haha. I’m still working on setting up more of a schedule for myself so that I actually take days off, since I work for myself and my studio is in my home I find that I am most often drawing and painting or at least doodling or writing notes for new projects for myself. But when I do take some time off from drawing I am usually reading, I’m always looking for new good books, I like to lose myself. Sometimes I go out exploring Oakland since I only recently moved here and I’m still learning the city, or most often I’m just lounging around the house in my pajamas until late in the afternoon, listening to podcasts or binge watching shows on netflix. I also like to rearrange and decorate my apt, I’m perpetually out of wall space due to being something of a magpie with artwork, taxidermy and odd objects, so I’m always shuffling things around to make room for new additions to my collection.
(Photo by David McHale)
ME: What artists most inspire you (alive or dead)?
CH:There are so very many artists who inspire me, and I continue to find new artists every day. Walton Ford, Beth Cavener Stitcher, Allison Sommers, Martin Wittfooth, Jeremy Hush, JAW Cooper, James Audubon, Albrecht Durer, Arthur Rackham, Lindsey Carr, and Carrie Ann Baade rank high on that list, but there are so many more
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