When I was first told about Caitlin Cherry’s work, she was noted as a young painter to watch. As an undergraduate at the School of the Art Institute, Cherry created visually provocative works that tested her use of color and explored the world of the Caitlin Cherry alter egos. Since then, her work has tested new grounds and explored different possibilities in Columbia University’s MFA program. During her relocation she has contributed to the Sixty Inches From Center Artist At Large series, giving insights to her experiences in New York City. The following interview was used as an opportunity to learn more about her artwork.
Tempestt Hazel: Can you talk a little bit about your background and your artwork?
Caitlin Cherry: I was born on the Northwest side of Chicago. I have an older brother who was an athlete and I had that same inclination most of my childhood. In the end I had to drop sports for art when I attended high school. It is a decision I never regretted. I just graduated from the School of the Art Institute with my BFA in painting in the spring of 2010. I create maquettes from construction paper and kiddy clay and make paintings from them. The work explores my own psychology and identity.
TH: How has living in Chicago influenced your creative practice?
CC: I was fortunate enough to study with Chicago Imagists who had a big influence on how I think about making work. They influenced my love for representation and sparked an outsider artist’s spirit within me that allowed for deep concentration on the work without being concerned with the ‘scene’ and the monthly minutia of the contemporary art world.
TH: At what moment did you realize you wanted to make art a career?
CC: I never really understood the artist’s career until I took a class on contemporary African-American art my junior year at the School of the Art Institute. It finally clicked in my mind that there are painters who live from their work alone. Even though that lifestyle is rare it gave me enough hope to want to pursue it relentlessly. I want that type of success.
TH: How have people responded to your work?
CC: The response to my work has been encouraging so far. It has mostly been within a school context so that experience is still young.
TH: Can you recall your first memorable encounter with the visual arts?
CC: I remember seeing Caleb Weintraub’s show at Peter Miller on Peoria St. on the Westside of Chicago a few years ago. His paintings were so colorful, imaginative, cynical, critical, luscious, and violent all at once I almost could not believe the capacity of contemporary art to include such paintings. It was shocking to see it versus the canon of art history we were spoon-fed throughout art school. It was one of those rare moments I wanted to run back to the studio and make more work as soon as possible. And I did.
TH: Where do you see yourself and your work in the next five years?
CC: I see myself making lots of art – and making money off of it.
TH: How do your first works compare to your most recent?
CC: My early works were on paper – big, reckless watercolor work with dripping paint. They were so wet the
paper buckled and warped. I would just tack a large sheet to the wall and slash it with a knife to cut it to size with
some slanted, jacked edges as a result. I was a maniac. Now my work is more refined with the recklessness
being tunneled into the content as opposed to the surface.
TH: What are you up to at the moment?
CC: I am currently an MFA student at Columbia University studying visual arts. My work has changed immensely
in the past few months and I expect more changes to come since it’s part of the process of school. In the past I
worked with representing clones of myself and now I’m concentrating on new representations – emotional clay
monsters, avatars. We’ll see how it works out.
See more of Caitlin Cherry’s work by visiting her website, www.caitlincherry.com.