Thursday, December 6, 2018

Following (and Reconciling) Different Artistic Currents with Catherine Coan


How is the residency going? Is it as you expected? Does the location inspire your progress? 

I love the peaceful, light-filled environment at the guest house. Sometimes, I think I can feel the energy of all of the creative people who have stayed and worked there before me. It’s been a challenge to write during certain hours as opposed to whenever I feel like it (which, let’s be honest, is usually less often than optimal). I wondered how I would meet that challenge. I’m happy to say that I have a bunch of new poems. Perhaps I’ve learned something about discipline — Perhaps not. 

Who can benefit visiting you during your Monday office hours? 
Writers, people thinking about becoming writers, students, and anyone in or interested in the arts might benefit from a visit. I also love to talk politics, books, travel, movies, dogs….  

Catherine at work in the Marion Davies Guest House

Although your work as Writer-in-Residence here at the Beach House is solely focused on poetry and the art of writing, you’re also a noted visual artist. It might not be an unusual combination, to be both a poet and to work in another discipline, but the form that your artmaking takes is quite unusual.  

I work a lot in this form called hybrid taxidermy. It might seem an unusual combination, but a poem is a kind of still life, as is taxidermy; both offer me the opportunity to meditate on the human relationship to wildness and domesticity. 


Catherine Coan, detail from Her Question, 2016 


I know our readers might be curious about your taxidermy practice as well? 
I practice ethical sourcing; this means that I don’t use animals who have been hunted or killed for the work, and I have relationships with breeders, farms, and others who provide me with animals who’ve died of natural causes. I also sometimes repurpose taxidermy which has already been completed. You can see the work at my website, CatherineCoan.com

Meret Oppenheim, Le Déjeuner en fourrure, 1936

When you look back at Meret Oppenheim's famous teacup, in some way it seems like a progenitor to this genre. That piece seems to biomorphically evoke a whole animal in some way beyond what simply covering an object in fur “should” manage to do. Would you consider this to be hybrid taxidermy? 

I’ve always loved this piece. I don’t think the teacup is hybrid taxidermy — Rather, using fur as a medium. But I do think you’re right that the piece evokes a whole animal — likely because it’s entirely covered, so its “new thingness” is complete. My sense is that for a piece to be considered taxidermy, it needs to play harder at being an animal. Oppenheim’s piece seems to me a little more highbrow than that, with ideas about femininity and utility at the forefront. Cute-ing the piece up — with eyes or a tail or antlers or something — would diminish it, don’t you think? 

Your recent public event, "Cross-disciplinarity" gathered artists whojuggle multiple disciplines - any insights stick with you?  

The event brought together artists who I know go across genres to talk about how multiple directions feed their work - Mathieu Callier writes poetry, prose, and children’s books; Cindy Rinne is a textile artist and poet; Sheree Winslow writes both memoir and flash fiction; Leslie Wood-Brown is an oil painter, printmaker and poet. I loved Mathieu’s idea (from David Bowie) about wading into the ocean juuuuust past one’s comfort zone, where one can’t quite touch the sand below. That’s where the good stuff happens! How when you work in multiple disciplines you’re always working with impostor syndrome in some fashion, and being confronted with that provides an opportunity to improve. And I loved Leslie’s thoughts about mentorship, in particular for women... though regardless of gender, so often it’s just one word of affirmation… it’s all it takes for us as artists and writers to have the confidence to move forward. 

Cross-Disciplinarity discussion: Left to right, Catherine Coan, Leslie Brown, Sheree Winslow, Cindy Rinne and Mathieu Callier 

Catherine Coan has been working as the fall 2018 Writer-in-Residence at the Annenberg Community Beach House since October 17 and finishes up her tenure on December 19, 2018. She has been creating a new collection of poems, tentatively titled Mistakes Have Been MadeHer final weekly office hours are Mondays 12/3, 12/10 and 12/17 from 11am-2pm, and she presents one more public event on Tuesday, December 11 at 6:30pm – featuring a reading of new poems, live painting from Bert Esenherz and music by Stephen Rowe and the Lonely Loners.

Coan is a poet, professor, and hybrid taxidermist living in Los Angeles. Her poems have appeared in journals such as Poetry, Poetry Northwest, the Seattle Review, and Terrain. Her first book of poems, Aviation, was published by Blue Begonia Press (Yakima, WA) in 2000. Catherine grew up in Montana, went to school in the Pacific Northwest, and has lived in L.A. for eighteen years. She is deeply interested in the wisdom and humor that can be discovered at the intersections of the human and animal worlds, and her hybrid taxidermy can be found at fine art galleries in Los Angeles and nationally.

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