When coming into contact with Caitlin Hackett’s bright, sunny personality, it’s somewhat surprising that such an outwardly positive person is behind the dark, macabre drawings of mutated animals and mysterious swamps. But beyond the first impression, it became clear that Hackett’s empathy for the natural world is the driving force behind the morbid subject matter in her art. Though originally from California, the artist recently moved cross-country from New York to Oakland and invited Hi-Fructose into her home studio. As we conversed in the living room, surrounded by her large-scale drawings, nature books and meticulously-arranged collections of bones in jars, she explained that from an early age, he has carried what she describes as “a profound sense of tragedy” for the destruction of the natural world.
Endangered and recently-extinct species are the primary focus of Hackett’s mixed-media works on paper, which often combine ballpoint pen, colored pencil and watercolor to create a somber ambiance rich with detail. Hackett is currently creating new work for a three-person show opening March 27 at Antler Gallery in Portland, where she will be showing with two other artists whose work ruminates on nature: Christina Mrozik and Jeff Leake. In a few of her new pieces, she invokes saint-like figures that vindicate endangered species such as the axolotl, a Mexican salamander that is believed to have gone extinct in recent months. Some of her work is uncomfortable to observe, Hackett admitted, but this discomfort is crucial to convey to her viewers the horrors brought about by our culture’s collective disregard for the animal kingdom.