FEATURED ARTIST: Caitlyn Shea
The $5 Art Contest continues to be a gift. I continue to be late posting results (like this one for September–due 8 days ago), but my reasons are better. The number of entries is increasing, and I am continuing longer dialogue with those that are rejected. The platform has become a way to help artists get outside their heads for a little while, and it requires that they take a look at how they do the BUSINESS of being an artist. Sometimes you have to learn that packaging counts. The cover of the book IS the first thing you see, and it DOES make an impression. It isn’t everything, but it counts.
This month’s artist submitted and was rejected in a previous month, but she took the opportunity to take a look at her work through a more critical lens. Her work was always wonderful, but now it is presented in a more accessible way. I am proud to announce the Featured Artist chosen from the September entries is Caitlyn Shea. Her artwork captures the wonder and celebration in the temporary nature of our being. I enjoy the contrast of celebration and decay, like rhubarb and cheddar, tart but savory. This isn’t another portrait of Barbie gone bad; it is a transcendence of the human cage. Brilliant.
I notice your recent work seems much darker in nature. Wanna talk about that? “I want people to have a visceral experience when standing in front of my paintings. Francis Bacon often spoke about the “violence of the real.” In his work, he referenced the human form as ultimately being permeable and vulnerable by nature. Similarly, my work relays the idea of humans and animals being restricted by the limitations of their own physicality.
“I tend to love morbid subject matter in every way, shape, or form. I spend a lot of time contemplating what a strange thing it is to possess a fragile, temporary body. I believe that macabre subject matter forces us to be confronted with our own mortality and ask existential questions; most of which have no clear answers. Some people would argue that those sorts of questions are outdated or irrelevant. For me, thinking about living in a big, beautiful, and seemingly random universe never gets old.”
Talk to me about the process you use? Do you attack paintings on paper and/or panel the same way you attack a mural? “Every painting always starts with a base coat of color. I then lay down abstract marks with large brushes. By mixing house paint, acrylic, and spray paint there is always an element of surprise and a certain “fleshy” quality to the painting’s surface that I find really exciting. I then look and wait for the figures to be revealed to me through the chaos of abstraction. I have a lot of photos of animals in strange positions and classical figure painting references that help me visualize possible subjects. Once I have a solid idea of where bodies should be in the composition, I will begin to define them with charcoal. I am often not satisfied with the initial drawing, so I wipe away charcoal layers and continue re-drawing and editing until I get to a point where it seems right, or what I describe as “inevitably placed.”
“The murals that I recently completed were different in that I had to work more directly towards a means to an end. Painting on floors, ceilings, and even the side of a building was challenging because I had to account for a lot of odd surfaces. At one point I had to actually tie paint brushes together in order to get at some unreachable spots. In the end it came down to a lot of practical problem-solving, which I found to be a fun challenge.”
Do you consider yourself a painter? Something else? “I consider my work a fusion of painting and drawing. I like the play between the dryness of charcoal and the luscious body of paint. Charcoal defines the edge and shading of a lot of the figures and gives them a “gritty” quality. I adore linear mark-making and the ethereal nature line brings to my subjects when layered over color. The entire process involves experimentation and discovery through my materials; be it charcoal, spray paint, or acrylic. ”
Clearly, the figure has a strong influence in your work. Tell me how that reconciles with your Abstract Expressionist influence. ”A lot of contemporary art delivers fast, punchy messages. While I appreciate that way of working, I choose to make paintings that are as much about the materials I use as they are about the subjects I portray. The act of making is amazing, and I want it to be evident on the surface of my work.
“I like the quick, big, bold mark-making of abstract painting when joined with the comforting, recognizable form of human and animal subjects. Subsequently, the subjects appear hollow and broken, and revealed as being part of the the chaotic environment that they inhabit. To me, this is the best way to convey human experience.”
You know we have to talk about food. What is your favorite? “I have been a vegetarian since I was 5 years old, due to my love for animals of all kinds. So, not bacon. My longest standing favorite food is definitely rhubarb pie with cheddar cheese on top. It is an oddly amazing combination of bitter, sweet, and savory. ” Geez, you must LOVE us to wade through all the pork, duck and beef references I make. Rhubarb is FANTASTIC. With cheddar, eh? I’ll have to try that one.
What about snack foods? “I absolutely love blood oranges. When they are in season I fill my purse, pockets, and studio with them. I cannot get enough of their sweet, yet tart flavor. They are also a real treat for the eyes with their shocking crimson red interiors.” I’m obsessed with clementines right now…I get it.
So, what’s coming up next for you? “I am really excited to be teaching Painting and Drawing classes locally in the next few weeks! I have always wanted to teach and it will help support my career as an emerging artist.
“I have been fortunate enough to be in a lot of art exhibits in the past year. This website has been a huge asset to achieving that! (Happy to help!) Right now I am working on paintings that are loosely related to the Apocalypse for two upcoming Apocalypse-themed shows. Should mankind survive December 21st, I want to go on to become a major part of defining contemporary art.”
Thanks, Caitlyn, for reminding us all that life is short, pardon the cliché, beautifully gruesome…and that it isn’t an excuse.