Life of a sea monster
Artist Christine Fulton is on a quest to build her own castle
Creating art is in no way synonymous with making a living. But to Christine “Sea Monster” Fulton, art is what makes her alive. Her need to create has given her the courage to do what few artists are brave enough to do—she has dedicated herself to creating art full-time, and she seems to be producing it at an incredible rate.
Earlier this month, the former co-director of the Crux Artist Collective opened her first big solo exhibit titled Grand-Dearie’s Death Castle, which consists of more than 80 drawings and watercolors depicting Fulton’s musings on life, death, women, creativity and lost dreams.
The 25-year-old Fulton, known for her retro-eccentric clothing and trademark horn-rimmed glasses, left the Crux earlier this year to focus on her own career as an artist and is also the curator for exhibits at Lost On Main.
“It’s really scary,” she admits. “And it feels really good to be scared like that.”
Fulton jokes that her parents are a little worried about what she is going to do for retirement, but says she wants to dedicate her life to being a full-time artist. She decided to take the chance now because she is young, strong and has the energy to keep creating even though it means living the life of a starving artist.
“It’s like sticking your thumb out there,” Fulton said. “You might get run over, but you have to get a ride.”
Fulton has a playful, almost mischievous demeanor, and it’s clear that she lives and breathes creativity. Sometimes, she admits, she has a difficult time transitioning back into everyday life after spending a few days in the midst of her art.
“I get drunk off being in painting,” she says.
Part of her inspiration for the exhibit came from her grandmother’s collection of photos. Her “grand-dearie,” who lives in a small Pennsylvania town and is now in her early 70s, collected photos from everywhere—of family members, other people’s families, even pictures she found at garage sales. And every picture is in a frame on the wall—smiling faces frozen in time, even though the people continued to age. After a visit to Pennsylvania, Fulton drew more then 70 sketches over the course of four days.
Fulton draws only women, and refers to her subjects as “my girls.” She talks about them as if they were real people with real lives of their own. Her “girls” resemble flappers in a style that is a mix of works by Salvador Dalí and the Strawberry Shortcake cartoons from the ‘80s.
For the exhibit Fulton spent four days installing her art and setting up the gallery to have just the right atmosphere. Her pieces hang in two rooms—the first has a pair of nooks that Fulton set up to look like her grandmother’s living room. Also in the space are graphite drawings set in small plastic frames to resemble family photographs. The nooks are covered in green-floral- and red-handkerchief-designed wallpaper that looks like it belongs in a “grand-dearie’s” house, rotted and peeling up in the corners. It creates the same eerie feeling one might get when visiting an old relative’s and finding photographs of someone else’s family.
The second room is dedicated to some of Fulton’s original sketches. It’s decorated as if it slipped out of one of her dreams, with clouds and rainbows, and the pictures hang on the wall like raindrops.
Also in the room is a typewriter-typed letter to her grand-dearie in which Fulton says, “You are going to die someday, you know. And I will die, too.”
The women in her drawings are all young, but there is a sense that they, too, will grow old and die someday. At the end of her letter, Fulton bids her grandmother to “keep dreaming young and restless dreams.”
In a sense the entire exhibit is Fulton’s farewell letter to her grandmother. It also captures the awkwardness of growing old, and the urgency of youth.