Catching Up With: Caitlin Masley – Sugarlift

Catching Up With:
Caitlin Masley

Posted by Julia Moody /

Caitlin Masley is a Brooklyn-based painter whose work focuses on built forms, ruins, monuments and topographies in their moments of change. We caught up with her to hear about her love of architecture and disregard for the pressures of art school. 

Check out Caitlin Masley's work on Sugarlift.

LIVES & WORKS IN  Brooklyn, NYC

OCCUPATION  Visual Artist & Urban Ecologist (urban future lab)

ON THE CLOCK  Everyday is a new adventure, but usually consists of a run, studio, teaching at Parsons, and anything related to my two kids and their super busy schedule.

YOUR ART WEEKEND  I love last minute plans, like randomly driving out to smaller regional museums or artist houses or an obscure building that someone mentioned was somewhere … 

ALBUM  Right now I’m creating my own playlists on Spotify from various sources like KCRW, soundcloud, and shazaming whenever i come across something throughout the day and night. Good finds like QT, new Phantagram, Tove Lo, Noga Erez. I could really just go on and on…Also anything on Radiotopia - it’s the best.  

FILM  Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky. This has been my favorite for so long I don’t even know if there will be another to compare.

ARTIST  Nasreen Mohamedi and land artists from the 60s and 70s. But mostly I seek out experimental architects or radical landscape architects, such as Lebbeus Woods, Archigram or the Metalbolists from the 70s in Tokyo.

BOOK  The Artist as Cultural Producer: Living and Sustaining a Creative Life. Forty essays by 40 artists/cultural producers, which I contributed an essay to (www.livesustain.org). And there is always the growing pile of books to read. Everything from Agnes Martin’s recent biography to the latest Hugo Sci-Fi winner. My favorites are really old architecture books, mostly so that I can use them as research.  

EATS  Anything I haven't tried yet.

LATEST PURCHASE  White converse (my go-to studio shoe that I wear till they fall apart), rolls of paper and a box of matches that says “may the bridges I burn light the way”.

GUILTY PLEASURE  Radiograph pens. Lots of them.

GRADE IN ART CLASS  I don’t think that art teachers ever gave a sh*t about grading, so maybe that D+ I got in figure drawing doesn’t mean anything...

36 HOURS  Anywhere I could swim in water or just train, travel, or bicycle all around and discover tons of little food finds, beautiful light, unusual smells, music and new stories…. and graffiti.

Your work examines topography, built forms and ruins. How did you become interested in looking closely at land and architecture?  

I grew up in Columbia, Maryland, which was a new town planned in secret by James Rouse, an urban planner in the 60s. It was a lovely place to grow up, but I didn’t realize how constructed it was until I went away to college in West Virginia and saw how urban centers and their outskirts develop in an organic way. It had a huge impact on how I thought about topographies and who makes the decisions about how we orient ourselves around the place we live and work. This lead my work to go from my micro experience to a macro global examination. Now my practice functions as an embodied negotiation of geopolitical space. While working mostly with references to distinct architectural structures and urban topographies, each of my drawing series is organized around an examination of a specific place in a specific moment in history and is often a way for me to deconstruct a political situation and/or breach a physical boundary. This macro projecting into often far-away situations is guided by an exhaustive archive of images that I have culled from political media outlets, online databases, and personal photos from disputed territories, abandoned cities and social structural projects from around the world. In each drawing, I cultivate an obsessive treatment of surface space, which meticulously hand-records every block, passageway, and texture, and allows me to dig back into the organic matter of these topographies. I use layering and subtracting fractions of various structures in my drawings, which lets the works reveal collective patterns of invisible histories of where we go, where we live, how we make, build, erase and redraw borders and structures and where we call home.

What are some examples of places that have inspired your work? Do you find that buyers of your work are drawn to your work because of the specific place which inspired it?  

The starting point for each work is a specific place or building or geopolitical negotiation of space. I often work with collectors or curators and museums for commissions that are specific to the buildings that have a meaning or link to the person or place to be examined. Such as the recent large installation I did at the Katona Museum of Art, where the museum was the beginning point. The building itself was designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes who studied at Harvard with the likes of Gropius and Breuer, which allowed me to visually expand my source material and explore an in-depth visual dialog of these architects into a new work dealing with modernism and brutalism. Collectors often are specifically drawn to my works because of the specific places, buildings or topographies that they are based upon. More specifically, they commission new works that inspire or have had impact on them, and we work to create a series that reflects the power of that in their lives and spaces. One example is a commission I did for Holt Renfrew in Montreal based on its amazing Gothic building. They are now three very large drawings inside the building itself visual examining the exterior of the building.


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