By Autumn Steam
Annabel Conklin’s passion for life and thirst for new experiences allows her to think on the edge and create, stunning, forward-thinking art. She works in an array of mediums from writing, painting, sculpture, mixed media and music. Her love for the German language and need to explore new mediums has formed her latest project Ein Tag Mit Arschgesicht Kätzchen or The Ass Face Cat.
Ein Tag Mit Arschgesicht Kätzchen was born from a concept originating as an inside joke about an, “…ass face cat,” between Conklin and her boyfriend. “I started messing around in Photoshop with things that looked like butts, and his face was originally a bulb of garlic that I stuck on a cat silhouette. That was what was on the original shirt that we did. My boyfriend is kind of my partner with this art thing. Mostly he just says dirty stuff and then I draw it.” Ass Face Cat, “… doesn’t have any eyes, and that is intentional. He doesn’t know that he has an ass on his face, but more important is that he doesn’t know that I don’t. You know he kind of thinks everybody is like him. So it’s like you’re putting something out there that’s a little bit inappropriate; out there for everyone to see it, but it’s captured in such a way that it’s like not threatening.”
In February 2011, Conklin made an appeal to her German teacher to let her write a children’s book instead of a final paper. Her professor graciously allowed the children’s book and the result is a fun, witty, colorful teaching tool for kids of all ages. The book is an adventure of this sweet, innovative, black, ass face cat that goes on an adventure. He meets a hedgehog, and then must find a way to play. The illustrations were all created by Conklin using a mix of painting and Photoshop to create this charming read.
Months after the German class finished, and with the steady encouragement from her boyfriend, Conklin published Ein Tag Mit Arschgesicht Kätzchen, using Create Space through Amazon.com in November 2011. “It took about a month to fine tune all the language. It was really jerky at first. I struggle with German grammar and so a lot of my sentences were flip-flopped. They would make sense but they would not be plain to somebody who was a native speaker, instantly. To get that clarity, it took a lot of refining. The artwork was done pretty much over the course of a week. When I got ready to publish, I had to run it through Photoshop and change it a lot because the colors were not popping enough when it got printed, so that was another month.”
Annabel Conklin has always been able to draw and can paint anything. She is in school at PSU, working on developing her painting skills while earning her Fine Arts degree. “I’ve done a lot of print making the last couple years but I just have one more [prerequisite] and then I am able to move into the painting department. I will be able to start focusing on that this winter.” Conklin has been truly inspired by some of her past classes. “The idea inform class that I did this summer was kind of a big deal for me, because it was so quick that I didn’t have time to second guess my ideas. It was like all of the sudden I was going to the Dollar Store and picking out Barbie dolls and Matchbox cars and Play Dough. My teacher just really encouraged us just to throw something together and be as spontaneous as possible. You know, put some thought behind it but don’t ruminate about it too much.”
In her studio at home, Conklin is busy producing fine works of art with a message and sometimes a sense of humor. “I paint, I sculpt, I make shirts, I have this book; I’m working on another book about another bizarre cat. I have this menagerie of fucked up cats. My scorpion cat, [has]…got a cat head but his body is like a scorpion and he just wants to be loved but he’s pointy and has a hard shell, so it’s hard for him. His story’s done but I need to get the art done. So that’s going to be coming eventually. I just got my first commission that sold recently and I am working on another one right now. I am definitely open to doing that. I can paint anything.” Looking around her tiny second bedroom studio, there are piles of canvases in the works. She points to a huge painting hanging on the wall, “The Virgin Lady of the Bees; I’ve been messing with her for about a year. When I started it, it was just going to be like an abstracted virgin and then I started thinking about how the bees were disappearing and how they need some sort of salvation. They don’t know why it’s happening. At this point it would take some kind of miracle. I am not a religious person but it’s just interesting. It’s an interesting icon.”
Sculpture is another outlet for Conklin’s creativity. She showed me a simple black ass face cat with a rainbow scarf on his neck. “He is a plaster cast. I made an army of those for a project a couple years ago.” And an army there was! She brought out the surviving ass face cats that she carefully set up. She made them scarves, toys, and had manufactured them to be balanced for multiple position placements. She is excited to take a sculpting and mold making class to use her supplies to make more durable sculptures.
Technology has played a great roll in Conklin’s life. She uses the internet as a tool to help her put her artwork out there. Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter are her favorite social media platforms. “Sometimes friends of mine will pass around my link and people will look at my portfolio and I will get some feedback. And that’s great! I’ve gotten a couple of book sales that way. It’s a good way to network and I am meeting a lot of new people through Facebook. Facebook is a big deal for finding out about new shows that I could be part of and seeing what everyone else is doing. I can’t work in a vacuum; I gotta go look at other peoples stuff.”
The internet is also a helpful tool for gathering inspiration. “I spent 10 years in exile. I used to be married to a real jerk, and when I liberated myself it was like I wanted to devour everything. I am constantly looking for new things to see and experience and feel; and so much inspires me. The internet is awesome. I watch a lot of videos of foxes on Youtube, you know, jumping on trampolines and shit. I get inspired everywhere. The wig store inspires me. They let me buy that head from them. I go to the Dollar Store and I buy horrible underwear that would never fit me and then [the wig head] ends up wearing it. And she looks good.” Conklin is visually inspired but music helps her focus on her tasks. “I take a lot of pictures on my phone, like all day. Then I come home and I flick through them. I will [also] type weird things into Google and see what image results come up; just things that don’t go together.”
Conklin is always working on multiple things at once. Her latest project is going to be a short film that will be shown at Emerge Underground in September 2012. “It’s going to be like a performance piece that I don’t want to spoil but it’s going to be good!” She is also working on some new assemblage pieces that involve Barbie dolls.
Annabel Conklin radiates a contagious enthusiasm for her art. Her open mind and constant discovery will inspire a struggling soul to liberate itself and just experience. “This is just kind of where I live. In here it is kind of a mixture of toys and pornography. Those two things don’t necessarily go together but it is just what I gravitate towards. It’s a good place to be.”