We’re excited to introduce you to the always interesting and insightful Cat Rigdon. We hope you’ll enjoy our conversation with Cat below.
Cat, looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. Let’s jump back to the first dollar you earned as a creative? What can you share with us about how it happened?
The first painting I ever sold was to the artist, Tommy Fitzpatrick, who was my painting professor at Texas State University. I had been experimenting with using “ugly” colors to glaze my oil painted fossilized sea urchin-forms with intersecting groin vaulting. He selected this Ugly One to be added to his coveted prized students wall in his office. He cut me a check and it still lives in his office.
Awesome – so before we get into the rest of our questions, can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers.
It all goes back to growing up on the island of Cyprus, which is in the far eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea. I lived there till the early 2000s. My parents made sure that we spent our time together going through ancient ruins and taking advantage of island’s natural splendor. We were threatened with deportation and abruptly moved to the United States in 2003. I have been haunted by memories of the island since then.
I went to Texas State University and studied painting, then after graduation in 2014, I moved to Dallas and joined Heritage Auctions as a Decorative Arts cataloger and specialist. My time in the auction world has very much affected my work and how I approach making. I must catalog everything that I do, every piece has a unique inventory number and sometimes an inventory number which correlates to a piece in a museum. Also, I paint and recreate ancient pottery, so that is definitely related to having been a Decorative Arts cataloger.
While working at Heritage, I was mainly creating small beaded pieces. I had my debut solo show, Backyard Daoism, at Galleri Urbane in Dallas, in 2016, it was about the life of my garden’s compost pile. I had created about 20 precious and intimate beaded pieces and a few watercolors, and just over half sold!
A few months after the show with Galleri Urbane, I survived an almost life ending brain injury. The brain injury left me unable to cope with stress and the physical part of the injury thwarted my ability to create. I had to change my life. I left the auction world and started to work part-time in the food service industry. Specifically Juiceland, so I could get all the healing nutrients for my brain. I slowly rebuilt my muscles and the nimbleness of my fingers while working on a new series of beaded and embroidered works, I Don’t Work Here Anymore. These works helped me come to terms with the new and lesser state of my brain, and the reaction of shock people had when they heard that I left the auction world. The job was very much part of my identity,
After taking some time to heal, I joined the Cedars Union as a community member in 2019. The Cedars Union is an arts incubator in the Cedars neighborhood, just outside of downtown. I joined to use the industrial sewing machine and large tables to finish my fibers pieces and to work on drawings. I was super lucky to have joined at that time and learnt about their cohort program, which gives a small group of local artists a micro-studio at a subsidized price for 18-months. I applied and was accepted for the program’s second cohort. This program gave me my first studio outside of my house, and all 200sqft of it changed my life. I had space to create, good light, excellent wifi, good company, and tours of people walking past my work multiple times a week.
During this time, I was also in a long distance relationship, which took me to London for a few months in 2020 and 2021. It was hard to be away from my new arts community and studio (I am a creature who thrives within a community), but it did give me access to some of the best collections of Cypriot antiquities at The British Museum and The Ashmolean Museum. It was very moving to be amongst the objects of my childhood culture and it gave me nightmares. I felt the sudden need to investigate more. Why am I still having these dreams? Why am I so terrified of approaching my childhood memories? Why do I specifically like these ornate, ancient death vessels?
I started illustrating and recreating the objects from a dig-site in the Northern part of the island, the burial sites at Enkomi. It has been cathartic and I have been thinking about my relationship and intrigue with death and the color pink. These pieces caught the attention of both Goetze Art & Design in Memphis, Tennessee and Ro2 Art in Dallas, Texas, and I signed with both this past Autumn.
My 18 months at the Cedars Union ended in December, now I have a studio in The Tin District, alongside some of my best friends, who I met through the cohort program. I am creating work which is reminiscent of what I created in college, in terms of color palette, and wildly different from what I ever imagined making.
Learning and unlearning are both critical parts of growth – can you share a story of a time when you had to unlearn a lesson?
I used to believe that using acrylic paint made one a lesser artist, that to join this industry’s illustrious timeline one had to solely use oil paint or watercolor for preliminary works. This is one of the more pronounced opinions I had during my early college years, then my stance changed when I entered drawing classes with Ashe Laughlin and Jules Buck Jones. Both of these artists challenged my thoughts on the use of materials and how I approach art. Art did not need to be severe and historical, it could be fun, pink, and plastic. I started using enamel on large rolls of clear and metallic acetate, I wrapped objects and paintings in slick acrylic and vinyl packaging. I dropped the uptight opinions and had fun.
Can you share your view on NFTs? (Note: this is for education/entertainment purposes only, readers should not construe this as advice)
It is a different animal. NFTs are a pyramid scheme for bros.
- Website: https://www.catrigdon.art
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/catatonicdiscotits/?hl=en
- Other: https://www.artsy.net/search?term=cat%20rigdon