New York artist and illustrator Caroline Caldwell returns to 1xRUN with three powerful new letterpress editions, available in (30) hand-embellished, (15) black, and (5) printer’s select variants. Referring to herself as a “queer art punk baby demon manic pixie goth cowboy”, “Biker Babez” is a true-to-form celebration of the girl gang claiming their rightful space on the street.
In an interview with the artist, Caldwell speaks to her process and inspiration in creating these images. Read on for more info, and click the link below to be the first to collect a print from this exclusive edition!
1xRUN: Was this image part of a larger theme or series that you’re working on? If so, how does “Biker Babez” fit?
Caroline Caldwell: Most of what I draw is directly inspired from what’s happening in my life. Over the last 2 years, I’ve felt a new sense of ownership over my identity as a queer art punk baby demon manic pixie goth cowboy, and I’ve been celebrating that through art. I wanted to capture the feeling of being a ✧free bitch✧ and I definitely feel that on my bike.
Prior to this, I spent seven years of my late teens and early twenties in a loving, committed relationship with my friend and creative partner. During that time, I was obsessed with drawing abandoned houses and junk yards – places I hung out – as a sort of therapeutic getaway from growing up in a turbulent home. I loved the feeling of creating something special; a home, out of scraps. My partner at the time, RJ Rushmore, was really cool and supportive – he helped me to create a sense of home and family through our partnership. I felt like that was subtly present in what I was drawing.
After we split, I felt what it was like to be totally independent for the first time since high school; and it felt big – like I had an entire world to create for myself now. The independence gave me the space to explore things about my identity that I hadn’t before.
I dove into all these different scenes and friend groups that I had been curious about: punks, club kids, drag queens, sex workers, burlesque dancers, tattoo artists, graffiti writers, and the like.
Basically eccentrics. People who make their existence as potent as possible. My art got a lot more feminine, erotic and morbid. I just focused on making what I wanted to see, loosely inspired by the people around me. It’s been immensely inspiring and has definitely affected what I draw. Lately, all I want to draw is punk girls ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
1x: Tell us how the idea and execution came about for this image?
CC: I drew this piece over the summer while I was house sitting for my favorite artist – Swoon. Swoon’s work and humanitarian projects showed me what it means to be an artist in the world. She is living proof that art can tangibly change the world, build communities, educate the masses, and radically transform lives. I felt so grateful to share her space.
I thought I was going to be exceptionally productive while I was staying at her place, but this piece was actually one of the only things I drew. Instead, I spent the summer reading in her library, and soaking in the material that inspires this person who inspires me. I spent the rest of the time on my bike going to costume parties and working at a Tim Burton themed bar.
1x: “Biker Babez”, like your past releases with 1xRUN, is available as a standard edition and a color variant edition. What is your process for choosing the different colorways, and how do you think each affects the artwork?
CC: I never use color unless it feels necessary. I’m all about high contrast. I think my phone trained my brain to need everything to look balanced as a small thumbnail. So when I work with color, it’s important for it to maintain that level of contrast and intensity. Red is my soul color, so I always gravitate toward using that.
1x: “Biker Babez” feels like an ode to both cycling and tattoo flash. What roles do those things play in your life?
CC: Cycling represents freedom. The freedom to go anywhere you want with the power of your own body. Joyously unrestrained and environmentally friendly – it’s a momentary freedom from capitalism and structured movement through the world.
I’m not an exceptionally talented cyclist or anything, I just love the way it feels to be on my bike, alone with my thoughts, completely connected to the present moment with my mind and body.
As for tattoo flash, I’ve pretty much always drawn this way. It started when I was in school and would draw little images to take notes for academic classes so I could remember the information. Then it just became the way I drew all the time. When I get an idea or I’m trying to communicate an abstract feeling, I want to do like 10 versions of it until I feel like the feeling is expressed within that collection of images. It’s an impractical way of communicating but I’m cursed with a love of maximalism.
1x: What materials were used to create the original piece?
CC: I drew the original using micron on trace paper.
1x: What is unique about this piece compared with your other work?
CC: It celebrates the girl gang. Girl gangs are about being independently powerful, while also an extended force of sisterhood. Feeling the support of strong women in a male dominated world is the most elevating experience I’ve ever had. Empowered women empower women!
1x: Describe this image in one gut reaction word.
1x: What’s next?
CC: I would love to learn to tattoo someday soon! I’ve always drawn on my friends and myself. I just think bodies are the most beautiful canvas. But I never seriously considered learning to tattoo until people started just taking my drawings to tattooists and getting them done. Half of my commission requests are tattoo designs. I’m about it! My hope is that one day soon y’all can just come to me directly and we can make permanent mistakes together ̀ˋ･｡♡ ✧*。
Follow Caroline on Instagram.