The Dark Dreams of Catherine Bursill Moore

0 Comments 04 November 2015

catherine bursill moore

Bay Area artist Catherine Bursill Moore talks growing up on the fringe, formative interests in the macabre, and putting together her first solo show.

by Daniel Barron



From her prepubescent days pouring over Stephen King to teenage nights in abandon at alternative dance clubs,  Catherine Bursill Moore has always plead allegiance to the freak flag. Her predilection for things that are black, bizarre, or go bump in the night went from boredom-killer to way of life once she began pursing art in college in 1998, graduating from San Francisco’s Academy of Art University in 2004. After hustling as a graphic artist and freelance illustrator she began showing her work in 2011. With their overtones of fairy tale whimsy and campfire lore, the dark beauty of Moore’s work displays the imagination of a mind shaped underground. She recently exhibited her first solo series, “Girlhood Dreams and Darker Things,” at San Francisco’s Modern Eden and has become a member of the all-female Copycat Violence Art Collective.

“We are on this earth only a short time, it would be a shame not to leave something of ourselves in it,” writes Moore.

Sounds like the start of a good ghost story.



catherine bursill moore

“Aura of Life”


You grew up in the California East Bay and Bay Area as a bit of self-described “freak.” You didn’t do Barbies, you liked horror and alternative dance clubs. Were you an outlier in your family or were they sort of offbeat and artsy fartsy?

Well, I actually did most of my growing up in Reno, Nevada. I came back to the Bay Area in my 20s. I would definitely say I was a bit of an outlier, but luckily my family has always been supportive of me and my creative side…even if they don’t always “get me.”


When did you start to exhibit interests that were a little…different from what was expected?

I would say from a fairly young age. When I was in the 4th Grade, I started reading Stephen King, Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft- that’s also probably around the time I started watching horror movies. My initiation into them was watching Psycho with my mom one Halloween and I developed a crush on Norman. That’s probably a little out of the norm. I was also very interested in magic and the occult. My best friend and I made a DIY Ouija board using cutout cardboard with letters written on them arranged in a circle and a glass in the middle. We would spend hours in my walk-in closet “talking” to the spirit world.


catherine bursill moore

“The Cartomancer”


I am a horror fanatic now but I didn’t discover that I was until I was around nineteen. My mother conditioned me to believe that I would hate them. My dad would threaten to put his VHS copy of Alien in the VCR as a way of taunting me. Meanwhile, my mom made me get rid of a Silence of the Lambs DVD I bought when I was sixteen. I later found out that she hadn’t even seen the movie. She still hasn’t seen it! Did any of your early experiences leave you with long-lasting scars or traumas?

Well definitely not reading scary books or watching horror movies. That was really my “happy place.” Not that my home life was particularly bad. My parents did divorce when I was about eight-years-old and my little sister and I became those “latch-key kids” of the 80s. I think going through that definitely made a lasting impression on me, but not really traumatic.

And your mom should be flogged for making you get rid of Silence of the Lambs.


catherine bursill moore



Obviously, being a teenager means something different in the 21st century than it did in the 80s or even the 90s. You can find people with your niche interests, fetishes, neuroses, etc. via your computer or phone. The rise of Comic-Con and “geek culture” has also changed the game. Was there much of a counter-culture where you were growing up? Was it easy to find?

I was a part of that counter-culture in Reno. We were definitely the outcasts back then. Big hair, dark make-up, piercings, tattoos, wearing all black. At the time we were called “mods” or “death rockers,” some of us were more punk. In the 90s I guess that terminology switched to “goth.” Reno was a fairly conservative place when I lived there- I hear it is better now, but I’ve been gone since 1998.

In the 80s, we were often ridiculed and harassed, sometimes beaten up for the way we looked. We would have to get creative with our fashions, often making our own clothes or giving money to a friend who you knew was heading to San Francisco for the weekend. We didn’t even have an alternative radio station then. If one of us went to SF or LA we would record hours of Live105 or KROQ so we could bring some of that home. Reno just didn’t cater to us then. We were lucky to have one night club for 18-and-younger that did. It was because of it that we did find each other, and we became a pretty close knit group. I’m still friends with many of them today.


catherine bursill moore

“El Pescado”


Can you even imagine becoming an artist in a world where you had access to more of your interests? Did it feel like an escape?

Oh absolutely. I loved drawing from a young age. I was always drawing. I never actually painted until I went to art school. I could spend hours upon hours in my room drawing. It took away all the negativity I experienced in the outside world. It was a perfect space of tranquility for me.


Has there historically been a particular culture or time period that has stimulated your imagination more than others? Or a variety of ones that have?

BTW- If you’re not listening to the Lore podcast GET ON THAT!

Lore…noted…will get on that immediately!


It’s great. Author Aaron Mahnke talks about the cultural origins of horror myths. Some of my favorite episodes have involved possessed dolls, werewolves, and insane asylums. And each episode is a very digestible 15-25 min.

I am super excited to check that out. I LOVE it. Thank you! As for particular cultures that fascinated me when I was younger, it used to be the 20s and 30s. I just love the fashion of those time periods. And Art Deco/Art Nouveau…all that. However, probably within the last five years or so, I’ve been really drawn to the Victorian era as more of an inspiration or catalyst for my work.


catherine bursill moore

“They’re Sleeping”


It makes sense. We’ve lost our ability to feel awe or wonder in many ways. A recurring theme on Lore is that we create horror stories and myths as a way of rationalizing the unknown. That’s a lot more difficult when feel like there is no uncharted territory left. Period fantasies just feel more real somehow. Even in post-cell phone slasher movies the “Oh no, I’m getting bad reception!” plot device feels false. It should be, “Aw, dammit, I used up all my data!”

Hahaha, yes! Very true.


Last year you had your first solo show (“Girlhood Dreams and Darker Things” at San Francisco’s Modern Eden Gallery). Was that a daunting undertaking for you? Did its central themes develop as you progressed or was there a specific concept early on that served as a spine for the work?

I came up with the concept about a year before the exhibition. I have this horrifying picture of me dressed as a clown for Halloween. (I was maybe four or five.) And it really is terrifying. I had that horrible plastic mask, my eyes look dead, and there is a running joke that the knife I was carrying had been Photoshopped out- my little hand did look like it was gripping something that you couldn’t see. So, I had decided to do a drawing of that, but with the knife in place. When I had finished it, I all of a sudden had these other ideas of little girls in a more macabre setting. It kind of morphed into the girls representing all the things I was interested in when I was that age. It was A LOT of work, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.


catherine bursill moore

“Sophisticated Colloquy”


You are a member of Megan Buccere’s female art collective Copycat Violence. How did you come to join their ranks and what does that means to you?

I was actually approached by Megan Buccere about joining Copycat Violence about a year-and-a-half ago when they were first starting up. I had never been in a collective before and didn’t know much about what it entailed. But the experience has been wonderful. I am amazed at the pool of talent that is in our group. We all come from different areas of discipline and everyone is super supportive of each other. Often, as artists, we work on our own and it can become quite lonely, so it is really nice to be part of a group where we can talk about our day, air our grievances, and get that pat on the back when we need it. I really love all the artists in the collective. Truly an amazing group of people.



catherine bursill moore

“Thinking Of You”


catherine bursill moore

“James Always Knew”


catherine bursill moore

“Family Heirloom”


catherine bursill moore



catherine bursill moore

The League of Extraordinary Gentleman’s Mina Murray


catherine bursill moore

“Enemy of the Heir”


catherine bursill moore


catherine bursill moore

Collab with Leilani Bustamante for the Modern Eden Gallery.


catherine bursill moore

Sweeney Todd art for Yay! Horror Movie A Day.


catherine bursill moore

Raiders of the Lost Ark for Yay! Legends Every Day


catherine bursill moore

Big Trouble in Little China art for Yay! Legends Every Day



Purchase prints by Catherine Bursill Moore on her Society6 page.

View more art by Catherine Bursill Moore on her website.

Follow Catherine Bursill Moore: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook

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- who has written 423 posts on Yay! LA | Arts & Culture Magazine.

Rudderless college graduate Daniel Barron founded Yay! LA Magazine on a love of writing, passion for the arts, and a firm belief that people really like talking about themselves. He contributed to a number of publications, including LA Music Blog and the defunct The Site Unscene, before deciding to cover arts and entertainment the way he wanted to read it. He works as a freelance writer and digital PR consultant in his current home of Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter at @YayDanielBarron.

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