Ultra Terrestrial: Becca Kacanda opens show at White Rabbit this Friday

Music too! Cedar County Cobras will play a live acoustic set around 6:00 p.m. -- image via White Rabbit
Music too! Cedar County Cobras will play a live acoustic set around 6:00 p.m. — flyer via White Rabbit

This Friday at 5 p.m., Spectroluxe opens at White Rabbit, featuring Becca Kacanda’s 3D collages and paintings.

Kacanda stumbled upon the name for her art, Ultra Terrestrial, in the book Valis, by science fiction writer Philip K. Dick, and is particularly interested in a theory related by Valis: that Christian theophany caused addiction, in other words, drug-induced religious visions.

“I’m really fascinated with the well-supported theory that Christianity started as a mushroom cult. There’s quite a parallel between taking the sacrament into your body/eating the flesh of god and eating mushrooms and connecting with God.” Along these lines, Kacanda’s work is visionary and border-line hallucinogenic. The prefix “ultra” means beyond the usual, and terrestrial relates to the earth, and her work invokes images of non-human entities, shining beings in pastel pinks and purples, and bubble-eyed, glowing, spitting chains.

Though visually stimulating and otherworldly, Kacanda’s work remains earthly, fashioned together from vivid bits of culture from all over the planet.

Kacanda grew up in Flushing, Queens. “It’s such a crazy place! I once read that it’s possibly the most culturally diverse place in the world,” she said. The items of her classmates often held her interest: “Think Sanrio stuff, but way beyond the Sanrio brand,” she said.

Living in Queens also piqued her interest in foreign lettering and signage, as well as the novel and original. “As a kid, I felt like I had full reign over my neighborhood; our public parks were packed with activity from all kinds of people.”

In junior high she and her family moved to Melbourne, Fla., which, to her, seemed the complete opposite of the colorful, urban New York. “Everything was new and designed to be accessed by car,” she said of her suburban Florida home. “Just big-box shopping and strip malls, cheerleaders, football players and fundamentalist Christians. A complete nightmare. To me, the non-weirdness of such places can be paradoxically terrifying.”

Luckily, the year before moving to Florida she had taken an art class with a great teacher, Lisa Sieger. Not only did Sieger help Kacanda through the drama of the sixth grade, she also turned her on to “cool art,” and encouraged her work. “Without her, I’m not sure if I would have ever had the idea to become an artist,” Kacanda said.

After Florida she went back to New York for college, but her art didn’t thrive there either. “[New York City] can be a really difficult place to make art, because everything is expensive, space is very limited, gathering materials is difficult … So much of my energy went into affording [New York] life.” For a short time she interned for Vice, but didn’t enjoy it, realizing that what she wanted to be doing was making art for her own satisfaction. She met her current boyfriend in New York while he was visiting from Dubuque. Together, they decided to move to Iowa.

Kacanda and her boyfriend, Victor Cayro, have been living in Iowa since 2010. In Iowa, Kacanda feels she has the space and the means to create. “I am definitely more productive here,” she said, “I use an extra bedroom as my studio … having stable studio space has been the number one best thing for my creativity.”

Kacanda fills her studio with things that inspire her. Lately she has been interested in Hmong textiles and artists like Nathalie Lete, Misaki Kawai and William Fields. She reads books like In the Absence of the Sacred; The Failure of Technology and the Survival of Indian Nations, by Jerry Mander, and The Good Life Lab, by Wendy Tremayne.

Right now she is really into the idea of using cartoons and having a more poetic and whimsical approach to product development and advertising. She is excited about doing more three-dimensional work and collaborating with Iowa Citian, Carolyn Scherf on a zine called Agri-Culture.

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Kacanda makes and sells jewelry, notebooks and calendars at White Rabbit and on her Etsy site. Her most popular item is a pair of brass middle-finger earrings. However, her favorite works are 3D collage, which will be featured along with some paintings at her upcoming show. “Everything is very tactile, and super colorful,” she explained.

Kacanda’s imagination seems to have collected colorful bits and pieces from everywhere, and, in the same fashion, her art continues to grow like a Katamari Damacy ball as she explores the world around her, connecting whatever she finds magical and gluing it down. A gallery of her work can be viewed at White Rabbit through March and online.