Brooklyn-based painter Caitlin Hurd creates tableaus of floating humans and animals suspended in the ephemeral instants between moments. Rendering in oil on canvas, her overall work has a ghostly quality that shifts the mundane into archetypes. Sister Cat (2011, 83˝x71˝) features a mesmerized woman floating in space, as two partially formed felines surround her. In Somewhere Else (2012, 12˝x12˝), twin male figures lie in the grass staring upward, as an abstract cityscape seems to burn in the distance.
A native of North Boston, Massachusetts, the 36-year-old Hurd has shown her work in more than 30 group and solo shows. In addition, she’s created original pieces for several public art projects and has been featured in publications including Hi-Fructose and the New York Post.
Daydreams from Brooklyn, her new show that opens this week at Florida Mining Gallery on the Southside, features five works that continue her ongoing series dealing with the transitory thoughts and trances that fall between the cracks of time.
Folio Weekly snapped out of our pipe dreams long enough to fire off some email questions to Hurd. What follows are highlights from that exchange.
Folio Weekly: For the uninitiated, how do you describe your art?
Caitlin Hurd: I would describe my art as surreal, floating figures and animals that try to convey a feeling of displacement.
Your paintings have an allegorical quality but I can’t really decipher the narrative. Do you agree that there is an allegorical/fable-like meaning to your work?
I agree with you. The reason I believe my paintings read like that is most likely the way I choose what I choose to paint. It is based on what I am attracted to at the time. I paint that, and then analyze the painting to see what else it needs and — not to sound too “mystical” — I let the painting tell me what it needs next. The painting is done when it is done. Then I sit with the painting and figure out what it means to me; it’s like I’m analyzing a dream and things are revealed, so I didn’t know I was painting about.
Your work explores these “suspended-in-time moments when the mind is somewhere else.” Could you give me an example of these moments? Do you mean it’s like something akin to driving a car and suddenly “coming to” and realizing that you’ve arrived at the destination?
These moments are where I think and come up with ideas where I replay my day. When my body is still, and my mind is somewhere else.
These moments became more prominent in your mind after you survived being run over by a car. What happened? Were you nearly killed?
I was riding my bike home late one night after working on the painting Family Portrait. A taxi took a sharp turn into me and ran me over. I was dragged down the street until it stopped. I was actually trapped under the car until the FDNY paramedics were able to jack the car up and pull me out. Because I was under there so long, my skin was cooked like a steak. I had third-degree full-thickness burns on my left side and arm. And one of my kidneys was shattered. I was lucky to have survived. Since I was in the hospital for over a month and my recovery was long, I had a lot of time with my “suspended-in-time moments.”
Today there are many reported benefits about mindfulness and returning to the present moment. It’s essentially homogenized Buddhism. Do you feel that, contrary to this, a wandering mind has its own kind of assets and benefits?
I really do believe that letting your mind wander can make you smarter. The benefits of detaching from smartphones and other devices can allow people to be bored and the brain can come up with so many wonderful things if it is not always distracted.
Since your work deals with the dreamlike and otherworldliness, do you attempt to put yourself in a similar mind state through meditation or other methods?
I do meditate from time to time, however, I don’t think of this as the time I come up with ideas. I come up with ideas for paintings just by being alone in my studio with no distractions and sift through pictures or simply stare off into space.