Born and raised in Philly, Kate McCabe made her way to California to study under former Disney animator Jules Engle (Fantasia), at CalArts.
Looking for a California sound for a film she was creating, Kate approached Brant Bjork from the southern California desert music scene. Once he saw her completed project, ‘Milk and Honey’, he asked her to come to the desert and make a visual album for him. Besides cross-country road trips, this would be Kate’s first real experience with the desert.
Just prior to coming out to work on Brant’s project (‘Sabbia’), Kate was looking to purchase a home in her native Philadelphia. While she was here, Kate experienced a desert snow – and the Milky Way. Now she would be looking for a home in the desert – that was 2005.
Not long after settling into her new desert home, Kate took a financial hit from an employer who did not honor her contract. Needing to keep money coming in, she got jobs, started painting and created ‘Kidnap Yourself’ as an artist’s collective at her home, providing space for other artists to flex their creativity in a desert setting.
In this episode, Kate talks about the ways she found to be creative during this time. With no funding for film making and limited supplies to create other art, Kate picked up a pen and began writing her observations of the desert and the weather, which lead to her create and publish ‘Mojave Weather Diaries’, a collection of desert observations and sketches.
Then she stumbled on a book by a female homesteader who lived in Yucca Valley in the 1930’s. June LeMert Paxton’s book, ‘My Life on the Mojave’ chronicles her life in the hi-desert. Reading the book, Kate felt a kinship with this woman who, for health reasons, left her family in Pasadena to make a life in the desert for her well-being. In her book, June describes the balance of self-reliance and required relationships with other homesteaders for survival. Kate compares the walkable communities of the east coast with the driving requirements of the desert and how that changes one’s ability to connect with their neighbors.
Kate earned her MFA in Experimental Animation from CalArts. She teaches film at UC San Diego and CalArts. Her current work includes painting, photography and diaries.
During the pandemic, Kate worked on a sunrise/sunset time lapse film that will be shown at the July 17, 2021, benefit concert for The Desert Institute. The film will open the evening, which features local desert rockers Yawning Man.
Connect with Kate and watch her films: