I have been following the dreamy, delicate, feminine phantoms summoned by Caitlin McCarthy’s hand for a few years now, and their spectral countenances never fail to strike a chord within me. Whether she is illustrating witches or widows, mystics or monsters, sybils or seers–every languid line and shadowed curve, from their trailing, tendrilled tresses, to the fragile lace close at their throat, to their wraith-like fingertips , is wrought with melancholy and loss, and rings with otherworldly resonance.
I revisit these ghostly women from time to time; I always find a nuance in expression that has previously gone unnoticed, a secret tucked in a silhouette, the hushed tumble of a curl, the shaded folds of a velvet dress rustling across centuries–these enigmatic whisperings reveal themselves with successive viewings and then again become unseen.
In sensing a shift in her recent work– a starker edge to her soft sketches, a piercing gaze in eyes no longer blind, and an atmosphere of empowerment where there was once a feeling of frailty–I caught up with Caitlin recently to see what may have changed for her over the past year.
“2017 has been a year of change in my personal life,” she shares. “After some major shifts, I have been on a voyage of self discovery and have been working on reclaiming my own identity and power. Personal hardships, heartaches, new love, and the current political climate have no doubt worked their way into my illustrations. I have found myself particularly drawn to witches this past year.”
“Witchcraft is being reclaimed as a way for myself and many to find their power, voice, and community. I love that so many have embraced the witch as a powerful feminist icon.”
She continues, “I have also begun learning to read Tarot over the past year. It’s a powerful tool for self insight and the imagery and symbolism have begun creeping into my work. Other inspirations include my favorite pastime of antique hunting. I collect all sorts of old things and oddities but antique portrait photography is especially inspiring. Victorian and Edwardian fashion and aesthetics have always been a favorite.”
“I love to think each little witch portrait or character I create has their own personality, story, and mystery for the viewer to decipher.”
Caitlin currently has piece in the “Hereafter Hauntings” group exhibit at The Mystic Museum in Burbank that runs through February–if you are able to stop by, it looks to be a lovely show! And though it may be too late for this year’s holiday correspondence, she has some fantastic Yule, Krampus, and Black Metal Xmas cards available in her Etsy shop, if you want to get a head start for next year (confession: this is how I operate almost every single year, and you will be *so* glad you did it!)