CAITLIN ELIZABETH WARD
Based in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn, Caitlin Elizabeth Ward, says she loves its gritty beauty and the strange mixture of blue herons, graffiti and stench. This is fitting with her decade-long career in revolutionary costume design with its dynamic range of materials and presentations and the pun is purposefully intended.
Caitlin is mixing blue dye the first time we meet and she describes this costume process for a fisherman character in Chen Shi-Zheng’s opera Matsukaze. Having worked with the Chinese director on numerous projects, Caitlin says that his vision informs her sense of sculpture and unique source material. “As a kid,” says Caitlin, “I’d make huge, life-sized sculptures of dinosaurs out of wire on my family’s land in Vermont and I’ve basically been doing the same thing ever since. Looking back, it seems as if I were engaged with character study even then.”
With dinosaurs at the genesis of her inspiration, it is no wonder Caitlin moved into life looking for abstract, dramatic forms of expression. And she has found several paths to that end working in film and theatre, specifically opera. “I was also inspired by Kurosawa and Jean-Michel Basquiat,” she says, “because this life of creation is not easy. I think we all look to those people we think got it right and who were able to make a real difference and then try and contribute in a similar way.”
The wonder of eccentricity in Caitlin’s work is ubiquitous. Her home page lists several topics including Spectacle Design, Fantasy and Children’s Media that all give examples of this but her latest project, Matsukaze, will open at the Lincoln Center Festival July 18 in New York City. Here she will help create characters for a 15th-century Noh play telling the story of two sisters as lingering spirits, who struggle to cross over to the afterlife in hopes of being freed from a former mortal lover. It sounds dramatic, mythic and tragic; similar to likening dinosaurs to opera.