The LIFESTYLE Collective grows. Caity Ballister is a visual artist whose pieces vary in material, presentation, and theme. This year she finished her undergraduate degree from the University of California at Berkeley. With multiple gallery shows, she has already shown a growing output of work with a personal touch and unique style. Caity shares with us some of her perspective on Reflection and Response and the process behind one of her featured pieces, You can’t go back. We thank Caity for adding her voice to the ongoing dialogue at the LIFESTYLE!
Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?
CB: I was born in Altadena, CA, a little neighborhood above Los Angeles.We’re at the foot of some big mountains with a view of downtown and sometimes we can see the ocean glimmering gold. Right now I feel very fortunate to be living in Berkeley, CA in a house with friends. We call it the Cuckoo’s nest.
What does Reflection and Response mean to you?
CB: Reflection and Response is the natural reaction to stimuli- it’s what makes us human but I don’t know… cats seem to reflect and respond to things too…So maybe it’s being alive. I find it hard to turn my head off. Walking around, sitting down, eating a popsicle… I’m constantly reflecting on various aspects of the experience.. the meanings embedded in actions, words, gestures, materials. I reflect super hard when something surprises me or when I feel something—friendships, love, heartbreak, fear, hope…these are all things or emotions that motivate me to act.. I guess that’s where the response part comes in. I consider all kinds of production in order to explore feelings or concepts to be art. So even the typewritten love letter I composed in high school for a crush… that was a work of art.
How does your installation You can’t go back fit in with that definition?
CB: This installation was a response to my experience of going back home, to my parents home, on my most recent trip. I found a lot of conflict and tension there from issues left unaddressed and fermenting under the surface. Simultaneously, there seemed to be a pretty fervent effort and desire on both my mother and father’s parts to make it seem like everything was great, to try to make me happy and feel at home.
As I was drifting to sleep that first night back at home, an image floated into my head. It was a dresser covered in a hand-sewn garment, almost like a tea cozy. The fabric was covering completely, stitching close the drawers. I knew in my drowsy delirium that I had to make this piece, that it was exactly symbolic of the complicated dynamics of the home I came back to. Real issues and basic comfort made inaccessible and home life made non functional despite painstaking efforts.
In addition to the dresser, this installation includes two other objects: a gold prismacolor colored pencil and the paper wrapper from an eraser. The pencil fell while I was in my studio and I was able to pull out the lead from within. I’m fascinated with uncovering, looking beneath the surface, analyzing and seeing how things work. I like undoing, breaking down into parts. I needed to take off the wrapper in order to use more of the fresh part of the eraser so I peeled it off, undoing the glue and exposing a surprisingly long length of paper that had been used to wrap around and around the rubber. Undoing the paper had both freed the tool inside and also introduced a new piece into the world.
What else have you been working on recently?
CB: I have been really loving making videos. I like using the camera to observe little moments of wonder and surprise that I come across. I’m going to film blueberries blossoming at my fingertips.
Who or what inspires you?
CB: When I was younger I came across the blog of a man named Saleem Reshamwala. He was documenting his experiences as a Japanese-American living and teaching English in Japan. He made videos, took pictures, wrote poems…all directly relating to the community around him. He also got people to participate with him and that kind of collaboration was really exciting. He’s kind a creative genius, an idea factory. I don’t really read his blog anymore, but he is always somewhere between the back and the front of my mind, inspiring me to love, engage with, record, and make something that celebrates the ordinary things in everyday life. http://kidethnic.com/ .
More recent inspirations, or at least artists I’ve found a connection with, are David Ireland, Doris Salcedo, Jonathan Richman, Olivia Crawford.
Is there anything else you would like the Collective to know?
Shout out to…?
CB: I want to thank the Lifestyle for featuring me and for creating this space. Also thanks to G’Pa Z, Kyle the Immediator of Media, the Cuckoo’s Nest, all my friends and teachers and everyone I’ve ever known.
You can’t go back
-Reflection and Response