Artist Interview: Caitlin Hackett

Yes, I know Women in Horror Month is well over so you’ll have to forgive some of the familiar questions. It’s just that I had this interview with the awesome Caitlin Hackett whose art is both phenomenally beautiful and disturbing and I wasn’t able to get it up on the blog in time. But that’s okay because she doesn’t consider herself a horror artist anyway. You be the judge.

caitlin_hackettTell us a little about yourself and what you are currently bringing to the field of horror.

I grew up in the wilds of rural northern California, in a tiny town on the coast. I spent my youth tumbling feral through the redwood forests around my home, and building forts of drift wood and old crab traps on the beach with my twin sister.

I have always had a fascination with animals and wild places, as well as mythology and fairy tales, and these passions have combined in my artwork. Growing up in the forests and the sea my father taught me to be aware of the natural cycles of life and death in the wild. I was always aware that in all beautiful things their lurked a darkness, a desperation to survive, just as in all fearful things there were elements of beauty and of softness.

After all there are no evil animals, save human kind, just creatures trying to survive in a dwindling world, and even the most frightful predators have in them a grace and a hypnotizing beauty that we are inexorably drawn to.

Most of my artwork comes from a place of both great joy and great sorrow, my love for the natural world joined by my heartbreak for its loss. Although my work is at times called horror, (and indeed it often is horrifying) it does not come from a desire to cause fright but rather from my own fear, the fear of losing the wild places and creatures that I love. I don’t create darkness for just for darkness sake, it is something that heaves out of me in moments of anger and of sorrow, as well as enchantment. With my work I hope to imbue those feelings in others, to get them to feel something, be it fear, wonder, or sorrow, just something to connect the viewer to the piece, and hopefully to the animals represented within.

twoheadedbirdWhat do you feel are the biggest challenges facing women right now in this field of creative work?

Probably under representation, despite there being many women creating powerful dark and surrealist work it is male artists who tend to have the most gallery representation and to be best recognized for their creations. It is not to say that those male artists don’t deserve it, many of them are phenomenally talented, I think the problem lies on more the curatorial side of the art world, though thing are changing very slowly, we still have a long way to go.

There is also an insidious societal desire lump all work created by women artists into one category of “Feminine” work. I can’t even tell you how many emails I get from people, mostly men, telling me how “seductive” , “delicate” and “feminine” they find my work.  While I appreciate that they enjoy my artwork, I wonder at times if they would say the same thing if I were a male artist? There is nothing wrong with creating feminine work, the problem arises when as a woman creative it is assumed that that is what you are doing. The feminine qualities of my work are only one small portion of the concept, my own focus is on the extinction, mutation, and pollution of wild creatures and wild places.

I do believe things are shifting, however slowly, towards a more even balance, and I hope they continue to do so.

As an artist, are there certain subjects you tend to use most often in your work?

Most of my work references endangered species, pollution, extinction, and mutation. I have always been passionate about animals and nature, as well as mythology and fairy tales, so I have wedded those subjects to create work that represents my sorrow and horror at the state of the natural world, as well as the way we treat animals, and to highlight our connection to them, the ever shifting line that separates what is human from what is beast.

Southernbald_Ibis_smallWhat medium do you prefer?

I typically work in ballpoint pen and watercolor, with some graphite and colored pencil, on paper. I am obsessed with quality papers, the textures and tones of them, the way they absorb the pigments, I’m infatuated.

What type of art or specific artist really makes you geek out? Why?

I love traditional media, and while the growing field of digital art has produced some lovely pieces, nothing gets to me the way that traditional work does; real paper, real canvas, real paint, the idea of having true contact with your media, of your hands forming it, even if it may be an old fashioned view. I personally geek out over anyone who does absurdly detailed work, such as the painter Allison Sommers, she creates marvelous, grotesque, intricate miniature paintings, and I love losing myself in these tiny worlds and am stunned by her patience and dedication in creating them.

Additionally while I myself work in 2D, I absolutely love sculpture and would like to start creating some of my own, the work of Erika Sanada and Beth Cavener Stichter in particular make me swoon, they have such a presence. Sculpture really confronts the viewer, it breathes, especially Beth Cavener Stichter’s work since it is life size, it transforms the world into someplace new, and transforms the viewer with it.

What’s the most haunting piece of art you have ever seen?

This is a difficult question since there are so many pieces that have burrowed into me, but I’ll list a few of the strongest ones here. Sebastian, by Martin Wittfooth http://martinwittfooth.com/Sebastian left an indelible mark on my psyche, it resonates so deeply for me, much of his work features a world in ruin, populated by saintly yet dececated creatures left to roam what remains. His is work that reflects our possible future, a future I fear as well.

Secondly there is Beth Cavener Stichter’s piece “The White Hind” shown recently at Claire Oliver Gallery, this is another one  that I can’t get out of my head http://www.claireoliver.com/artists.html?artist_no=47&offset=4, though truly all of her work hits me hard in it’s tragic yet deeply humanizing portrayal of animals.

Lastly a recent photo series by Nick Brandt has also been haunting my dreams. This series of photos captures the stark beauty of calcified birds, bats and other creatures in Lake Natron. In particular the Floating Flamingo image has stuck with me. This series is both visually stunning and emotionally devastating for me. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/10/pictures/131003-calcified-birds-bats-africa-lake-natron-tanzania-animals-science/#/lake-calcifies-animals-frozen-flamingo_72200_600x450.jpg

Shifting gears for a moment, tell us who you think the best villain or creature is, hands down, in horror literature or film? Or, if you already answered this in the previous questions, tell us something random. Anything. I won’t print this. I swear 😉

I guess I’ll have to come clean here and say that I actually avoid watching horror films and reading horror literature haha, so my experience with those villains is somewhat limited I’m afraid. I have wild, vivid dreams that stay with me for years, indeed I have some that I can recall from very early childhood that have not faded with time. Unfortunately these dreams of mine are already populated by a nightmarish cast of creatures, wraiths and snarling things, so I usually try to avoid consuming any media that would add to that fearful population of dreamed up beasts. Thus you will have to exuse my slim pickings for horror villians. I’ve mostly seen a slew of B-rated horror movies haha, and fortunately neither “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” nor “Lobster Man from Mars” left any lasting horror on my psyche. I do recall watching The Birds as a child and seeing the scene where the woman’s eyes got devoured by the birds certainly left a lasting impression on my young mind.

Nemean_Lion_lowresEvery horror creator has a boogeyman; something that keeps them awake at night. What’s yours?

For me that would be humans I suppose, and our vast capacity for destruction. Our apathy, married with the obsession for making a profit at any cost is truly a terrifying thing. It’s probably not the horror answer people are looking for, but it’s what keeps me tossing and turning in the night.

In terms of nightmarish creatures, I would have to say that the only phantoms that occasionally keep me from slumber would be Shadow People, though this may earn me some mockery haha.  I won’t dive into that much more than to say that regardless of my questioning stance on the reality of ghosts/spirits/shadow folk, I’ve had a few experiences that have given me cause to shudder.

Is Women in Horror Month important to the field? Why?

I would say yes, since improving gender equality in all fields is crucial. Ultimately in the horror field, as in the art world, having more people of every gender adding to the movement will yield a richer and more engaging set of work.

In what way would you improve the visibility of Women in Horror Month if you ruled the world? (You know, pretending for a moment that you don’t already.)

Haha well if I ruled the world it would be great to have a Women in Horror book, magazine and perhaps even a TV mini series that could air for the month, but since alas I don’t have the power to make those things happen, I’ll simply have to use social media to the best of my advantage.

Give us your details. Where can we find your work? What’s your website? Social media details, etc?

I update my Instagram and twitter most often with work in progress, commission pieces and upcoming shows, but I also update my website monthly with new completed work!

my website is www.caitlinhackett.com.

my IG and twitter handles are both Caitlin_Hackett

I’m on facebook as Caitlin Hackett, https://www.facebook.com/caitlinhackettartofficial

Plus you can buy prints of my artwork here; http://society6.com/caitlinhackettart

And you can purchase small original work in my storenvy shop:

www.caitlinhackett.storenvy.com

 

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