Caitlin's forest surroundings are a constant source of inspiration for her work. Her art involves going on discovery trips with her six year old son Ronan for distinctive and unusual plants and flowers.
With roots in ancient history Caitlin has bought back the technique of using natural dyes sourced from leaves, flowers, nuts and insects to create works or art.
Caitlin's paintings come to life in a world of botanical symbolism and mythology.
AGB: Caitlin you use plant dyes to create paintings of plants? I love the whimsy circular description of the process. It’s like the plants are using you as their vehicle. What made you create the first concept of human/plant/animal hybrids?
CP: Ha! I am definitely controlled by plants, or at least motivated by them. I think the first time my work started to be influenced by the natural world in a direct way was in 2007. I was awarded a Jerome Foundation grant to travel to Chernobyl to shoot photographs and videos in Pripyat and around 'the zone'. My attraction to this place came from anxiety about our abuse of the environment. Chernobyl is a place that suffered so much damage because of humans, and where nature is in some ways thriving. It's fascinating! I wanted to capture some of that feeling, of nature being allowed to reclaim, to win back some territory, even if it's toxic territory. And also that 'the wild' doesn't always mean untouched by humans. Sometimes we create wilderness by damaging nature so badly that we can no longer inhabit these spaces and they return to a feral state. Chernobyl had a real impact on me. From then on plants and animals started to take over my work!
AGB: Your animal hybrids that are painted on paper look like mythological creatures or gods, but your newer paintings on fabric have memory as an underlying message. Why is that?
CP: A lot of my work touches on the theme of memory. I think part of it comes from the fact that I have a terrible memory. I still have a group of friends from childhood and when we all get together they'll recount events from when we were kids and often I'll have no memory of it. It's almost a joke between us. It's the same with my family. Because of this I've become fascinated with how memory works, both on an individual level and culturally. That gap between what we actually remember and the story that grows up around it. Some of the paintings on fabric I've been doing involve childhood memories.
Within this same framework, I'm drawn to places where some sort of suffering took place and which are now returning to a natural state. I love how nature can transform the memories or history associated with a place. Some of the fabric paintings are of a place called Letchworth Village that has a very disturbing and tragic past, but is now abandoned and overgrown with plants. It reminds me of Chernobyl in a way, where a terrible tragedy happened and is ongoing -- the half life of the nuclear material is thousands of years -- but it has also become a nature preserve. Endangered wild horses have been brought to live there and many birds and animals take refuge from humans. So there's a beauty there. In that context, I see nature as a healing, transformative force.
They've proven that trauma is passed down from parent to child in the genes. If that's true, how do you heal? I think that question is what bridges these two different strains in my work.
You can see more of her natural dye painting process by following along on Instagram @caitlin_a_parker and stay up to date about when workshops are offered by signing up for her newsletter via www.caitlinparker.com.
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