The Howling Ghosts of Nature: Artwork by Caitlin Hackett
Owls wearing masks, fauns with extra limbs, flowers budding from living flesh: these beautifully adorned multi-eyed martyrs of the animal world flourish in the artwork of Caitlin Hackett. Unexpectedly delicate linework delineates fur and papery flower petals sprouting from rabbits; masked moths perch upon birds afflicted with parasitic branched growths. Her unique combination of animals, mythology, and symbolism results in a series of drawings that require the viewer to take pause and ponder the mournful tales illustrated.
Growing up in northern California among the misty redwood forests and rocky Pacific coastlines, Caitlin was unknowingly cultivating her intimate relationship with the natural world that would later inform her drawings. The endless summers playing amongst the trees and camping trips deeply impacted her appreciation for the environment; the natural world enchanted her and inspired her dreams. She later attended Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY, as a fine art major with a specialty in drawing, and later graduated with her BFA in 2009. She has since returned to the West Coast to work as a professional artist.
Primarily working in ballpoint pen, Caitlin doesn’t do much preliminary sketching for her work. She dives right in, loosely sketching shapes in pencil, then inking them in, gradually layering in watercolor, colored pencils, and more inky details. Preferring to work as close to life-size with her muses as possible, some of her drawings are huge – during the process of their creation, drawings are spread across the floor of her apartment, where she sits on the paper and draws, barefooted.
As an inherent storyteller since childhood, complex narratives are woven deeply into each drawing she produces. She combines the dichotomy of life and death and its cyclical nature frequently, often intertwining the growth of plant life within a partially decomposed creature that is still reaching out, struggling to survive. The liquid eyes of her muses plead with the viewer for understanding, for help. Her series explores the fragile relationship between humans and animals, incorporating endangered species, extinction, poaching, pollution, mutation, death, and the struggle for survival. By combining her passion for animal rights and nature with a love of mythology, Caitlin strives to create pieces that speak to the dark side of human nature with a hope that her viewers will recognize in themselves both their capacity to help and harm the natural world.
“Mirroring ancient myths of transformation in often grotesque ways, we find in contemporary times that animals are being transformed biologically due to interactions with human pollutants; there are frogs with triplicate legs and blind eyes, cows with shriveled sets of legs growing out of their backs, two-faced piglets being born on factory farms and radioactive fish rotting from the inside in poisoned seas, the list goes on. I am interested in the power of these mutations both for their mythological allusions as well as their dire environmental implications. I hope to remind those who view my artwork that we too are animals, embedded in this fragile world even as we poison it.”