How fear affects our sense of reality?
The Haunted children story
Kathie Olivas, a multi-media artist, resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Kathy, along with her husband and fellow artist Brandt Peters are the founding members of the international artist collective, Circus Posterus. The couple also owns and operates Stranger Factory, a contemporary art gallery that focuses on narrative arts and character design.
Olivas' current series is presented as a satirical look at how fear affects our sense of reality. The characters perform as narrators in lonely worlds that each explores individually, creating his or her own perspective, and ultimately their own reality. They are meant to evoke a nostalgic reaction that reflects isolation, fear and an uncertainty and at the same time they serve as empowered alter egos. The ensemble provides a sense of comfort, as the reminiscent style is soothing, but the mood brings about darkness.
Inspired by early American portraiture that often depicted children as small adults in an idealized new land, the characters parallel this vision within their own sense of post-apocalyptic conformity, uniquely documenting their own stories in a mysterious brave new world. As children, they evoke a sense of temporality; childhood serves as a starting ground, a place where things begin.
This body of work also focuses on the constant social desire to assign “cuteness.” It often serves as a means to make something innocent and more appealing, so it's perceived as non-threatening and perhaps even comforting. Her questions are based on the discomfort of what if - what if these sweet creatures had other ideas? What if they knew something we were afraid to open our eyes to? What if they wanted to protect themselves and would they be able to adapt to a war torn environment in order to develop their own defense mechanisms?
What was the starting point for your work? Was there a specific
theme you wanted to explore or was there something technical that inspired the work?
"I’ve always been drawn to early American portraiture; I love the
concept of a brave New World or starting over. I am definitely drawn to process. I’ve spent the past few years really developing my painting techniques after old masters. I go back and forth learning new media and then trying to find how it best fits my own voice as an artist."
What is your work process?
"I tend to start with sketching a shape on a canvas and just seeing
where the line takes me. Sometimes I have a basic idea in mind, but
most of the time I try to just pick up on an energy or flow of what’s
in front of me. I tend to be inspired by everything around me—a
distinct pattern in a wood floor that resembles an odd face, random
textures, vintage patterns, etc. I am really drawn to elements that feel
nostalgic and I think when you can tap into something that feels familiar,
you add that extra element that allows you to connect to something
outside of yourself."
Who are the haunted children and what do they represent?
"Alter egos and random misfits. They tend to represent parts of myself
that I want to explore or to evolve. More often than not, they are
reminders of an “inner child” that allows us to balance our lives and
learn to laugh at ourselves and embrace our discomfort."
In your mind how does "surviving" and "innocent" leave together in
the same character? In other words, how can you survive a traumatic
event and keep your innocence?
"I think of experience as evolution. I’m not sure if that means you can’t
be innocent and evolved."
How did the children change from the former "sweet and sorrow" exhibition and what was your inspiration this time?
"Haunted was definitely inspired by the possibility of an apocalypse
or what was more likely the ramifications of the fear of an apocalypse.
Both themes weighed heavy on the expectation of waiting for
something bigger to happen."
Is there a political message behind the exhibition?
"Nothing is ideal. The world is made up of compromise and balance and until people realize that, they are disconnected with reality."
What do the masks represent?
"The alter ego. They tend to be elements of mystery, but also defense
mechanisms to the ones wearing them."
Each character has a unique and rather deep look in her eyes. Can you
explain the technique you use to draw that look and what it reflects?
"I feel as though my characters aren’t afraid to look into someone’s
eyes. Maybe it’s that kind of honest energy that just feels penetrating.
I want it to reflect strength and optimism, but it’s probably more likely
to reflect what the viewer hopes to see in himself."
What was it like bringing your characters into three dimensions? Does
it feel different?
"I’ve sculpted as much as I have painted, so I always had a clear
vision of how I wanted them to look."
Why do you mix 2D and 3D in your show?
"I have a short attention span and going back and forth between mediums allows me keep my mind fresh and allows me to get a better perspective on each character."
What's your favorite part of the process?
"I love the early stages of development, as a character comes to life and I love seeing a piece completed. The middle part tends to be pure labor of love."
How did your style as an artist develop thought the years?
"I worked as a caricature artist throughout college, so that tended to
be the biggest impact on my style. After that I had a very hard time
drawing faces without exaggerating them. As I learned to paint, these
characters just became more and more defined in their own world."
What is the next step for you?
"I’ve spent the past several years writing the story of one of my
characters. I’ll be illustrating that this year in a series of paintings.
Next, I would love to get more involved with film."