Caitlyn Clester is a 19 year old student challenging the consciousness of our connection to nature with distortions of perceived reality. She uses the human body as her medium, immersing it in (elements of) nature, and combines her images with visual concepts of an era that shot vibrancy up surrealism’s drooping arm.
Clester traces her vision back to the influence of her artistic family. Her appreciation of nature stems from hikes with her grandmother. And when her parents introduced her to psychedelic rock, she found herself drawn to the genre’s art counterpart. Today the young photographer experiments with mirrors and different techniques to twist kinks into our perception of reality, with the lens of her camera steady on the natural body of earth and its humans.
In the fall, she’ll embark on a scholarship-driven study of photography at a private art college in Portland, Oregon. We wish her all the best. But for now, get to know the thought processes behind her work in the interview below.
With your familial background in the arts, how have you navigated different mediums as your own person and settled on a focus in photography?
I’ve always been fascinated with photography because it’s not like any other medium. Painting, sketching, et cetera is a form of art which is created from the mind and reality, but can be interpreted in a mannerist style which can be a perception of life, but not really life. Whereas Photography forces the artist to expose images of the world, and find ways of creating a vast sense of imagination and differentiation that painters and watercolorists can create, but with the humans and nature in front of them. I do enjoy using all mediums though, and when I was younger, before I picked up a camera of my own, I was engulfed in watercolor and graphite. But as soon as I got a camera there was no turning back from there.
How do nature and the human body connect in your artistic vision? Does that tie into how bodies are arranged in your photos? Do you consider bodies a medium?
Humans are part of the tapestry of life on this planet. Things that happen to earth and nature specifically happen to our bodies as well. For example, when the earth heats up, so do our bodies. I believe that the coalition of humans to nature is extremely important and lacks proper awareness. And thus, I try to express the coalition through the bare/nude form engulfed in natural earthly possessions; in [the series “Beneath the Pedals”] being water and flowers. To answer your other questions, Bodies are absolutely the medium in my images. And their positioning is either draped and laying across rock forms and trees, or submerged in water, representing that connection through actual physical touch.
Regarding “Beneath the Pedals,” at first I thought I read it wrong, but the word “pedals” brings in a layer of control. To me, the series speaks beyond the aesthetic exploration of colour. Using flowers plucked in their full bloom, it juxtaposes our most natural forms with our luxurious exploitation of nature. These kinds of images may have seen their various forms with different artists, but what about this series is significant to you? Why “pedals”?
Well, the title “Beneath the Pedals” as opposed to “petals” actually came about by an extremely simple and quick interaction, but a vastly complex thought process. I had been walking barefoot through grass one day and I felt a soft texture under my feet, which I proceeded to look down and discover it was flower petals. This interaction sparked a thought process which actually led to the series. Flowers in whole stand above ground on a stem. But individually, petals by themselves don’t have a base to keep them afloat, which makes them succumb to gravity and fall to earth, below our feet. And that coalition between the petals on the ground and my feet being the first to make contact with them was yet another wonderful way to connect us. But in another sense, it also brought to reality the fact that humans take control over nature, and simply ripping the stems of flowers or walking on them and destroying them in their bloom is something that we do without a hint of acknowledgment or remorse. So with creating “Beneath the Pedals” I wanted to connect the human body to flower petals, but still keep them afloat with water. But also by changing the name to “pedals”, it not only has a direct correlation to feet, as was my interaction that initiated the series, but also a sense of our control over much of earth’s possessions.
What about the psychedelic age engages you? How does your photography translate the art and experiences of that era? Are there references you could specify?
The word “Psychedelic” derives from the ancient Greek words psychē dēloun, which translates to the “revealing of the mind and soul.” Psychedelics alter and distort one’s perceptions of consciousness, and subvert them into a realm of surreal sensory reverberations and spectrums of vibrant colors that one does not achieve in the normal world. I have an undying penchant for the views the subculture in this era experienced and brought to life through art, and how they’ve changed art’s normality into the state of the unfamiliar. My work attempts to reflect this era in the sense of creating images that are not everyday visuals. I use things such as kaleidoscopic images, double exposures, and reflections in order to achieve this stylistic visuals, to make the viewer have to look in depth, and experience an image which isn’t familiar to their regular perception of reality.
Your usage of kaleidoscopic technique, mirror-borne reflections, and refractions in water show the maturity of your photographic skills as well as the youthfulness of your age. It goes without saying that as we grow older, things will inevitably change. How do you envision your work in the future when you’ve finished your studies?
Every shoot that I do, I believe my technical skills enhance and each work is more advanced and mature than the last. So to even think as far ahead as the vast future in front of me, is an immensely insane thought of optimism and hope. I believe that as I am more and more exposed to the people around me, and the different forms of natures creations, not only does my knowledge of the world enhance but my photography of the the world enhances as well. So I can only hope that I continue and advance on this journey of abnormal distortions of reality through images, as well the interconnectedness of us to earth.
Written by Katrina Wong