In today’s world, the term “artist” is used rather loosely. Virtually anyone who has ever picked up a pen, brush or guitar is free to describe him or herself as an artist. Some however, possess an indisputable acumen for more than just aesthetics and are able to use the craft for its original intent. A visual storyteller, Katie Bright is one of these true artists. Her strikingly visceral works are seeped in both beauty and symbolism – the marks of true artistic masterpieces – and continue to grow in popularity among collectors and galleries alike.
Bright specializes in the fantastical, and her art is right at home on the other side of the rabbit hole. Much of her work features familiar characters from fairy tales like “Little Red Riding Hood” and Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” and she has a rare gift for reimagining classic childhood fables from a more mature and often darker perspective.
“Fairy tales were the first stories to capture my imagination as a child,” Bright recalled. “They are a combination of morals with a touch of mystical and supernatural elements that propel the creativity.”
Bright, or Miss Brightside as she is known professionally, kicked off her career with a bang. The first time her work appeared in a gallery was at aMBUSH in Sydney, Australia, and was aptly publicized as an extravaganza, rather than as an exhibit or installation. The pieces on display exemplified the unique fairy-tale-gone-bad style that she has continued to cultivate, and which has become her trademark in the years since. Snow White, Tinkerbell and the Queen of Hearts are among characters depicted in Bright’s often hyper-sexualized scenes.
“From an adult perspective, fairy tales have a whole darker element. In particular, from a scholar’s level, the unraveling of the encrypted symbolism is prolific,” she said. “I found I had a division between my childhood ideals and existence in an adult sexualized society. For this reason I began entwining and reworking fairy tales within my artwork.”
It’s a recurring theme, which Bright employs as a deliberately eye-catching metaphor for the dichotomy between childhood innocence and the expectations subconsciously placed on the children who grow up hearing those fables. The images used at aMBUSH were primarily screen printed on mirrors, and in tandem with Bright’s careful selection and placement of lighting, attendees were transported through the looking glass to a world of her invention. Her use of color in prints such as “Some Day My Prince Will Come” and “If I Had a World of My Own, Everything Would be Nonsense” is mesmerizing; an array of prime reds and blues and yellows, starkly contrasted with ominous black and white backdrops, with the shimmering surfaces of the mirrors serving to further capture viewers’ attentions and imaginations.
“It was more than an art show; it was a whole visual feast and a circus production. I made and curated 102 artworks, we had two pole dancers, a contortionist, dwarves dressed as cupids, two bands, a DJ, a film crew and press,” said Bright, describing just how extravagant the whole affair was. “The major alcohol sponsor was an absinthe brand, which supplied a mixologist who made ‘Love Potion’ cocktails, two women dressed as green fairies and two topless male waiters working the bar.”
The massive event, launched on Valentine’s Day 2012, was Bright’s first solo show and a watershed moment for her. Its opening night saw more than 1,000 people in attendance, and both inspired her and established her in the incredibly competitive field. Since the success of that first exhibit, Bright has organized several other huge art-and-culture events, including one in Swindon, England in early 2015. Working with Harris + Hoole Coffee, she took it upon herself to propose, plan, organize and ultimately produce a huge event for the company.
“The event I coordinated turned into a 3.5-mile radius tour of three artisan coffee stores that have opened in the last year. My concept was Love Coffee for Valentines Day,” Bright said. “I liaised with three venues, arranged sponsorship, wrote copy, designed promotional material, illustrated the map, logo and branding, filmed and edited a promo video and created a website. In addition to the tour I orchestrated Creatively Made In Swindon. An art and design exhibition displayed over the three venues during the Love Coffee Tour, which continued into March. For the exhibition I collaborated with seven local artists to curate and install the show.”
Currently, the extraordinary Miss Brightside is wrapping up work on a series of interior visual designs for the luxury hotel Surftides Lincoln City in Oregon. Asked to create a design based on a unique fairy tale, Bright chose to write her own, “Atargatis.” A brilliant show of her unlimited, cross-media creative talent, “Atargatis” tells the story of a mythical beauty, a girl who can transform into anything. But in so doing, the girl retains conflicting features of both bird and mermaid and realizes she has lost herself and become something unrecognizable and unsustainable.
“When creating the wallpaper design I wanted it to have a moral. This quote from Thich Nhat Hahn encapsulates the meaning behind the fairy tale of Atargatis — ‘Changing is not just changing the things on the outside of us. First of all we need the right view that transcends all notions including of being and non-being, creator and creature, mind and spirit. That kind of insight is crucial for transformation and healing,’” Bright said of her inspiration. “After I created the fairy tale based on the Thich Nhat Hahn quote, the illustration element was straightforward; I just illustrated the story.”
The results are as beautiful as they are imaginative. The gorgeous series of scenes tell the tragic tale of Atargatis, and in such a way that they would be just as suited for a children’s book as they are in this luxury beachfront locale.
Bright’s ability to accentuate and illustrate the darker undertones of familiar stories has made her an international sensation in the art world. Followers of her work will be excited to hear that she is currently planning for her next solo exhibition, tentatively scheduled for early 2016. A visionary master of storytelling through imagination, illustration, creation and design, Bright certainly lives up to her name and will never cease aweing viewers with her work.