WUSSY recently had the pleasure of getting deep and personal with Caitlin Rose Sweet, a ceramist BUSTing through the cis/ male stagnant art world.! We talk about everything from the validation of art to the chronic pain that inspires her!
Her latest show HAG will be opening at Empirical Nonsense in NYC on March 29th until May 18th. Find out below where you can purchase her cervix blowing art and other nuggets of info like favorite foods and astrological signs.
Enjoy this special interview with Caitlin featuring feminism, truth & pain.
Tell us about yourself!
I am a queer femme from a working class cuntry background. My folks were back to land hippies, and i was born at home in southeastern ohio. My dad was a working craft artist and my mom was a midwife and community organizer. I was raised to believe in community, art, and sustainability which was really at odds with shitty environment of marietta, ohio that had active KKK chapters. Being out as queer in a small town in the 90’s was really brutal and shaped my commitment to make really visibly queer art. After college i moved to the west coast were i spent my time organizing queer art shows, living in punk houses, and thrived inside the magical bubble of a radical queer community. I have been living in brooklyn for a little less than 5 years, I am blessed with a rad partner, big ass rent stabilized apartment, 2 cute tiny dogs. I joke how i am retired punk slut, i gave up communal living and poly to be a married lady with a pottery business. I run a small art studio in bushwick. There are 6 people in the studio mostly ceramicist and queer.
Tell us about your work!
I am a craft-based artist that explores failure as a generative space to radically reimagine bodies, femininity, and ceramic practices. I am constantly poking holes into social constructs of what constitutes a good body and proper craft techniques. My work is messy, the sloppy craft is an expression of my refusal to assimilate and it speaks of a matrix of haptic knowledge rather than the mastery of traditional objects with fixed and inevitable functions. My practice is entanglement of feminism, queer theory and decorative art. I focus on how domestic objects create and maintain cultural identity throughout time. Ceramics is archival material and I think about my work as recording the affect of queer life that will serve as future artifacts.
I use my lived experience with queer collectivity and abundance to counter homophobic narrative that the queer life is a lonely life. I’m expressing what happens when queer bodies come together, the sensation of the singular body becoming the collective body. Queer touch, intimacies, and sex breaks the mold of what a body should be and how bodies should interact.
Craft sees skilled hand as a thinking hand, one that gathers information from the repetitive intentional contact with the material and world at large. How one touches and what they touch informs how they make. As a queer person my hands are sites of political resistance and sexual pleasure, making my ceramics infused with my sexuality and political dissent.
I have been working with ceramics on and off for 20 years. And it's been my main material boo for 7 years. I am a working artist with a handcrafted ceramic design line of High Femme smoking vessels and functional art objects to enhance rituals of self care. I love how i can use my hands to make work to serve others bodies, to help them connect to themselves and practice self care. The functional objects are just mini sculptures and it feel pretty amazing that there are stoners out there using my work. Like i am connected to this web of queer femmes getting high af and feeling themselves. Craft is magic.
What was the inspiration for your latest show, Hag?
This show is a little different, i am showing in a small space that is closed off from the audience. I generally do immersive installations, my last show Uncontainable was in a garden and involved performers moving through the audience with ceramic vessels they used to pass water back and forth. Because this is such a static presentation of my work, i decided to display the ceramic forms as a still life. All my work is about the relationship between functional object, representations, and bodies particularity the queer femme body. Hag is collection of forms that channel some of my rage and personal feelings about my body. It's pretty visceral. I made a lot of these pieces during a flare up of my chronic pain, the forms are crude in places, cracked, collapsing under the weight of themselves. At the beginning of the year i couldn’t lift a bag of clay and then my hands and arms just gave out. It hurt to make anything. Clay is so tactile and picks up all the movements of the maker, it can be so expressive. Instead of seeing my body as a failure, I see it as a source of great wisdom and value, so i figured out how to make work within my capacity. I really embraced failure, collapse and being broken for this show. There are some pieces that blew up in the kiln. One that i ended up not liking after the first firing so i smashed against the ground before i glazed it. The vessels are awkward, vulnerable, interdependent, abject, beautiful and fierce. For me it was about presenting a vulnerable body as powerful.
I tend to have nihilistic streak, i don’t feel pumped about current politics, humanity’s history, and what the future is looking like. The folklore of hags, is one of reckoning. They strike against people who trespass against the balance between humans and the natural world. Hags are ugly wise old witches that have no love for humans. They are known to kill and eat men who come asking for assistance and eat noisy children that wander too deep into the forest. They visions of the power of femininity turning is back on the male gaze and refusing to be seen as valuable to the patriarchy. I fantasize about hags coming out of the shadows, swamps, deep forest hutches to come cull this white supremacist patriarchal toxic masculinity shit hole of a world.
Do you have a favorite piece?
A mama can’t pick a favorite child!! I feel extremely proud of this body of work. I generally hate my work while i am pressing up on a deadline, like i am too stressed and close up to see it. Years later i am like huh maybe there was something there. Right now as i am assembling the pieces i am fist pumping the air. The forms and surfaces are just so delicious to me, they really grab me by my guts and hold me there.
Your work is super validating - are you aware of that?
Thank you. I am listening! I really believe in the magic of the web (cosmic not digital), that queer folks are connected through a matrix, i am like a spider with my fingers pressed to the threads picking up vibrations. Queer femmes (femme for me is a queer gender identity that holds a multiverse of bodies, expression, sexuality, herstories, and futures) have a lot to teach the world about survival, self care, interdependence, and magic. Folks have responded to my work with lots of love and appreciation and that feels amazing. It is seriously amazing to hear that my work makes you feel empowered, being a working artist is isolating...i spend a lot of time alone in the studio.
Having a body is really hard for a lot of reasons, our cultural makes us feel like shit for just having a body and most people are super anxious about it. My work is about bodies just being bodies which is weird, messy, falling apart, wet, hungry, needy, and super magical. This really comforts people, like i am giving people permission to just be in their complicated and exciting bodies. To me thats the true definition of body positivity, allowing bodies to be bodies and loving them through all the pain, confusion, pleasure and transformation.
It's a bizarre time to be a stoner, like clearly i am benefiting from this cannabis cultural shift. But i am like how is there white ladies instagramming getting high and doing yoga when there is black and brown folks in jail for petty ass possession charges??!? And i am over the whole “i don’t do drugs i smoke weed” attitude, bitch i am doing drugs! I am here for the complete decriminalization of drugs, treat addicts like folks with an illness cuz thats whats going on, let people out of jail expunge their records, if you want to lock up anyone how about big pharma??? Lets what i want to see not cbd drinks at the bodega. Weed has been a medicine for me, it how i have managed my 15 yrs and counting life with ibs and chronic pain. But it is also a drug as in a substance that i take to set me adrift from what the capitalist world demands of me which is to be an alert working body. Being a lazy stoner is political. Our bodies are vessels made for so much more than labor and reproduction.
What’s your favorite place to eat in NYC?
I eat a lot of food from central and south america, tacos, empanadas, arepas, and i am married to a brazilian so we go to queens a lot for that. Give me rice and beans, greens and meat and i am happy. I go to mostly family owned small places. Nothing bougie unless its sushi.
Following up on our last conversation about this: how do you feel about the gay white male dominated art Scene in NYC?
This question is hard to answer cuz i sorta just spin out in a rage loop in my head. I have experienced some deep deep misogyny in the NYC “queer” art world. It has been so heartbreaking and really affected how i see queer community. And i know i am not the only one, i have talked to so many women, femmes, trans, and non binary folks who have experienced horrible things and have withdrawn from queer art spaces. I have been told that i need to make phallic work if i want to sell anything. Like to my face by a curator. While working for a queer art fest i have watched white cis men direct resources to other white cis men cuz they were cute and refused the same resources to women and non binary artists. It’s intensely phallocentric. And feels like someone has to be seen as “fuckable” to succeed. Recently i was at this fancy queer art gala, i was chatting with a fellow queer artist about how i was looking for a hot older lesbian art patron but like jk ...dykes don’t have money. They were like maybe you could find a rich gay man patron and i just said “i make the wrong shape” they laughed and said “and i do”. What was really impactful about this moment is that this artist and mine work has a lot of crossover, we both use craft methods and materials to talk about histories of representation, abstraction, kitsch, desire, feminine labor, bodies, and rituals. But they are a making kinda “phallic” work and mine is orifices. And we were surrounded by rich gay cis men who wanted dick art for their “phallus palace”. I want to be clear i am not dismissing my friends work (im a fan) and success. I am not dickphobic, i am real body positive but the phallocentric misogyny is boring and oppressive. I would really love to see gay men and institutions buying art that speaks to the diversity of the queer experience.
Queer men have a lot of work to do on how they treat women, trans people, femmes, and gnc folks. I have an endless amount of stories of how gay men are so rude and unwelcoming to queer women. I am ready for a culture shift where cis gay men actually give a fuck about women and trans people. Think about how much more amazing our art scene(s) would be if we as a collective could let go of the binary and invested in each other. Its always shocking to me that as a queer woman i need to be fluent in cis fag culture to have a clue of what queer identity, art, culture, history is but so many queer men know nothing about queer women culture or bodies. The constant erasure is mind numbing.
Favorite show / favorite color / zodiac sign!
High maintenance, the writing is so good and i love the format of little vignettes of people’s lives. I know its not perfect but Queer Eye really gets me, like i get all teary eyed when they help people see the value of self care and how everyone deserves to feel cared about. and anything with freaky apocalypse sci fi mutant vibes and vampires. Pink is like duh my favorite color like since birth. My bedrooms are always pink and so is all my bedding. It's a healing color to me. I am a taurus with a libra rising and sag moon, so i am perfect. Venus in taurus too, so i am all about the sensual, slow, hedonistic life. Why go hard and burn out fast? I am here for the soft bed, big blunt, good head life.
Check out Hag at Empirical Nonsense opening March 29th from 6-8pm.
Hag will be on display until May 18th.
Empirical Nonsense — 87 Rivington Street, NYC