Eclectix asked Katie McCann to answer some questions for our interview about her art and life. And since today is International Women’s Day, it is only fitting that we throw some webshine onto a woman artist, whose work we love. Katie is a local Berkeley artist who creates collage creatures of a very mixed heritage – Victorian women, bird and skeletal parts, botanical elements and various insect parts – often in fancy, flowery and fashionable attire. The final images find themselves assembled on eclectic surfaces, from old book covers and cast-off china pottery to found elements of usual and unusual natures. The end results are wonderful characters with an individual attitude; sometimes sassy and sometimes uncomfortable, in finery and mismatched limbs.
Can you give us a little personal history and a description of your artistic style? I was born in England and spent my childhood in Windsor (famous for its castle). I moved to London when I was 18, where I studied fashion journalism, illustration and styling at The London College of Fashion. I also worked for Liberty of London and Gucci. I moved to the USA in 2000 with my family and we now reside in Berkeley. I have my studio at home. I create collages of strange hybrid creatures made up of insects, birds, shells, human bones, plants and fashion couture. They are part science fiction and part fairy story. I work with paper mainly but also embellish some of my art with lace, beads and fabric.
My favorite art memory from my childhood is…. doing a portrait of King Lear in oils for my grandpa’s birthday. I was about 11 years old and I had received an oil painting set for Christmas. I set about painting the piece on my bedroom floor. I made a big mess since I had no idea how to use oils, but the portrait turned out okay and my grandpa loved it. It truly was experimental in that child like way. I wish I could be that free now when I work.
My interest in art/painting started… when I was quite young. My dad would bring home old television scripts from the BBC where he worked and give them to me to draw on. I would spend hours doodling, sketching and coloring on the backs of these scripts with felt tip pens.
I am often inspired and motivated by… I am inspired by fashion, especially haute couture, and nature. Putting the two together is like making strange paper dolls. I can see a lady in a bird hat, wearing a cut up Alexander McQueen dress, with a lobster claw arm and spindly, deer legs. Somehow the juxtaposition of beautifully beaded couture dresses and bony, bird like creatures is inspiring. I sometimes spend a while just looking at dresses in my old Vogue magazines and imagining how I can transform them into a living thing.
If I could spend the day with any artist (dead or alive) it would be… Charles Altamont Doyle. And we would… probably have a cup of tea and cucumber sandwiches in a Victorian front parlor and talk about the weather, whilst sketching fairies and giant birds.
The tip or art technique (a specific tidbit of craft, advice or mechanical expertise) that has helped me the most is…. wear an apron at all times and also use cuticle scissors to cut out the tiniest pieces for my collages. They are great for those details like beetle legs, tiny leaves and flower petals.
If I could own one piece of art, out of the world’s collections, it would be… ’Birthday’ by Marc Chagall. (below) I saw an exhibition of his when I was 15 at The Royal Academy in London and I was so inspired by his art. ‘Birthday’ stood out because of the ‘flying’ figures, the girl’s dress and the simple, romantic celebration in a comfortable setting.
My favorite piece of my own art is… I don’t think I have one yet. Maybe I’m still waiting to make the perfect creature in the perfect dress.
My ultimate project or fantasy is… to create 3-D versions of my collages. I’m not sure how I would do it but I would love to create life size models of my lady monsters. I’m sure it would involve making paper dresses which is another fantasy of mine.
The last song I choose to listen to was… ’A Song For You’ by Donny Hathaway.
The last book I couldn’t put down was …. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. He captured the dog voice so well. I look at my dog, Jimmy, in a different way since reading it. I now feel like he understands every word I say.
My favorite word is… Fairy
I can’t live without… Books, scissors, tea and hi-top sneakers.
It’s not hip, but I really love…. Toast and Marmite (at least once a day) Marmite is an English spread made from yeast extract. It is savory and amazing on toast!! They do sell tiny pots of it here but it is very expensive so my dad always brings me a large pot when he visits.
My favorite motto (or quote) is…. ”I have known such a creature”. (Charles Altamont Doyle describing his pen and ink study of a ‘cat-girl’).
I apply this quote to every collage I do.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be? Palma de Mallorca.
Palma de Mallorca is the capital city of the island of Mallorca. Mallorca is one of the three Balearic Islands off the coast of Barcelona. It is a beautiful city – quite small. Art is everywhere from tiny galleries hidden up the narrow streets to street artists painting on the sidewalks and many of the old private houses have become museums. My mother moved to Mallorca when I was 18 and she now lives with my dad just outside of Palma. I have spent almost every summer vacation there so it feels like home. I love the weather, the cafes, the Mediterranean Sea, the mountains and the tranquil life.
Link To Katie’s Website