Touch On Artist Interview: Craig Calderwood

Bug Chaser













“Bug Chaser”, 2016, Craig Calderwood. Photo by Kelly Wu.

Where and how did the idea for Bug Chaser come from?

I actually stumbled upon this fetish on the internet one day called formicophilia and just grew really fascinated with it, specifically with a focus on the mosquito element of it.  Formicophilia is a fetish focused on the sensations little critters give you, like having  cockroach’s, snails, or ants crawl on you or in more intense variables having hornets or mosquitoes bite you, and generally on the genitals. I was working more fervently on a body of work I have about web-like sticky stories of human and animal interaction and this Philia really fit the bill, but only the aspect of this philia that focuses on mosquitos as it is a consensual moment in this kind of zoophilia. Mosquitos require blood to lay eggs and the formicophiliac requires this sensation to get off, it is an uncanny sexual symbiosis. Not often does a host willingly give their body to parasites, especially ones that harbor some of the biggest disease killers of humans (though let’s be real, a lot of the people I have read about live in places where they don’t really have to deal with disease-carrying mosquitos). The name “Bug Chaser” came to me as I read the reactions  people had to this philia on video comment spaces and forums, and a lot of parallels can be drawn to either the excitement or horror people have around the culture of bug chasing, which is the pursuit of obtaining HIV intentionally. Both of these acts deal with disease, blood, and intention around sharing the physical and fluid exchange. I wanted to wade in the mud of these things and create an image that could talk about this act in a nonjudgemental and complicated way.

Has this Been Exhibited Before? How do you hope people will react?

I have been working on this for almost a year and am excited to be showing it finally. I hope people engage with the work with complicated thought, and maybe ask themselves questions about the pieces. Why is this person doing this? what are the symbols in the pieces guiding me to understand?  A big part of my practice is asking myself questions that I then try to answer with my work, so I hope my viewers do the same.

What has the journey been like as an artist so far?

It’s been interesting, for sure. I really don’t feel like my art journey started until I moved to SF. Prior to moving here I had made images but everything I did felt very disconnected and more of a survival tool than how I understand making art now (which still helps me survive, but has bloomed into something more articulate). Six years ago I moved to SF and spent my first three years  figuring out what I wanted to do with art, and how I wanted to present myself. I consider myself self-taught (with a little city college under my belt) so a lot of my journey has been self-motivated. I make my work for myself as it helps me communicate with myself and with the world. I have been really lucky to have had friends and curators that have helped me propel forward and a lot has happened in the 3 years since my first solo show in the city.

What is the message you want viewers to take back from your pieces?

I would like people to think about the complications of touch, if we are speaking about how the work relates to the show. Touch is not always consensual, easy to understand, or even needed by the pieces I make. I want them to think about the importance of the sensations of touch as a tool for memory, to think about touch and safety, and the impulses some have to touch without question.

What lies on the future radar for you as an artist?

This is my last show of the year as of now, and I am excited to bunker down into my next body of work which deals with the materials I used during my times at church camp as a kid, that’s all I’ll say for now on that.

About Craig Calderwood:
As a self-taught artist born and raised in the Central Valley of CA (Bakersfield-Clovis-Centerville-Fresno) Craig developed a penchant for creating as a means of dealing with being in the Central Valley. Craig now lives and works in San Francisco. Their work at it’s core is about the development of a language through symbols. Through research and lived experience they have created a cache of imagery that they rearrange to tell narratives both personal and fantasized. These pieces present themselves through a variety of mediums as each body of work requires new materials conceptually. They currently work with five different bodies of work spanning a variety of themes that in some ways connect in a large constellation.

About the Interviewer:
Tara Chandi is SOMArts’ Communications & Gallery Events Intern. She is pursuing a Master’s in Interaction Design at the California College of the Arts. Her work is focused on designing for sustainable solutions and systemic change.