Dancing Drum Studios Presents: the Art of Katy (Catlin) Rose Caplette

Monday Apr. 1st, 2024

Katy (Catlin) Rose Caplette died from heart failure August 1st, 2022 at just 40 years old. An enrolled member of the Crow Tribe, Rose’s Indian names are Sees The Two Rainbows and Speaks With Her Colors. Although Rose had a diagnosis of Down Syndrome, she did not identify with that diagnosis. In the last two years of her life, when she spoke about Downs, her mom, Jenna, would hear, Dancing Drum. Rose’s legacy art show is offered by “Dancing Drum Studios,” aka Jenna and collaborators. 

Rose’s dad, Frank Caplette, explains, “Indian names are given by clan uncles, and aunts; that’s to help you through life.” 

Because she had chronic lung issues, Rose’s ability to be out in the community was severely limited during the pandemic, a tough go for a woman who grew up socializing in downtown Bozeman. In the 1980s and 90s, her mother owned Accents West, a downtown destination retail innovator. During COVID Rose missed a lot of days, weeks, and months of work at Reach.

She missed her friends, so she developed a new community, beginning to write a series of plays. She created portraits for each of her 70+ characters, based on their super powers. These became her companions, her compatriots. They were given the gift of transformation, learning forgiveness and acceptance. She said, “I just like doing my own characters because it’s more fun than real life people. I have a hard time with real life people because I don’t know how they feel. But if you go to fantasy-land, you can see it all in your head. It’s beautiful.

“It’s like a dream, like being motivated, being creative with your characters . . .  after a while, it’s more fun to just be each character, see how they act with each other. Their emotions are intense. And, just sometimes, you can have musicals, sometimes action. But super-heroes, oh, man. They have thoughts. They can see, they can do anything they feel like doing.”

Florence Guest wrote 40 songs inspired by Rose’s imagination. “I first met Rose in 1995, when she was 13,” says Guest. “We came back into each other’s lives about four years ago at a Beatles sing-along. Jenna asked, you know, she wants to write songs, and I can’t help her with that. And I said, I can do that. And so, for the next three -and-a-half years, we wrote 40 songs together, about one a month. She would send me paragraphs of run-on sentences… like a block of wood, an artist can see the art that’s hidden inside, and she trusted me with the chisel… to cut away the words that were not important, and to leave the words that were—to shape them, give them a structure, and a rhythm, a rhyme and a melody.”

Rose’s character portraits are drawn with Sharpie markers on computer paper. Marsha Phillips from F-11 Photographic Supplies scanned and color-corrected all images. Rose’s mom Jenna and her long-time friend Linda Griffith went to work, choosing 30 of the 71 images to start. Jenna added beadwork designs that had been a part of Rose’s life, from the cradleboard her relations beaded and gifted to her, to moccasins and dance outfits Jenna beaded and sewed, to other beaded items that had been in Rose’s home environment all her life. Adding the beadwork celebrates Rose’s heritage and also helps to “ground” each image. 

Rose lived up to her Indian name, “Speaks With Her Colors.” Her work is truly a celebration of color and light. One of the song collaborations with Florence Guest expresses that love: “Live your life in color, Shining bright in color . . . Happiness and love, in color. Happiness and love, in color.”
Rose incorporated symbols she felt belonged with each character, embodying their “medicine.” Phillip Zemke, Rose’s art coach for two years, said, “Rose was brilliantly capable of embracing [symbology], whether it’s Disney movies as mythological explanations of complex archetypal functions of human beings or a handheld video camera. All of a sudden, she sees the impact of that, how creatively she can use it, and she doesn’t let it go. She makes use of it. All of the creative processes she encountered in her life she made her own. For Rose, there was no disregarding the creation of creativity. It had to be lived.”

Rose participated in Eagle Mount Bozeman from its inception, both with horseback riding and skiing. She would have been so excited about the adaptive arts program Eagle Mount now offers, though Rose found her own way.

Karen Williamson, Rose’s mainstream art teacher in kindergarten and first grade, says; “She was smart. She was capable. She was determined. She could do what she really wanted to do. . .  if she had a flaw at all, in my mind it was the that she loved too deeply, because I don’t think it was always reciprocated.”

Linda Griffith, collaborator and Photoshop whiz, describes her involvement with the project: “This work is important because so many times people with disabilities are unseen, except when we have an event like Special Olympics. Look what we’re missing by not seeing what Rose was able to create, and then multiply that by all the people with disabilities across the world who are marginalized.”

Linda used to kid-sit Rose. When Rose was four or five, she was telling Linda a story and didn’t think Linda was listening, so she reached out, grabbed Linda’s face with tiny but determined hands, turned her face and said; “Listen to me with your eyes.” 

On Saturday, April 13, from 4:30 to 8 pm, listen to Rose with your eyes (and ears) when Eagle Mount and Rose’s collaborators host an open house to showcase 20+ pieces of Rose’s work, including video footage of Rose embodying her characters, and cardboard/duct-tape sculptures of settings from her plays. At 6 p.m., enjoy light refreshments and speakers including Eugenia Funk, Phillip Zemke, and Rose’s mom,  Jenna Caplette. Florence Guest and Silas Rea will offer songs inspired by and written alongside Rose. Fifteen of those songs have become the CD, “I Am Everything I Am.”  The CDs will be available at the opening for $5 each. Art pieces can be special-ordered, and gift cards may be purchased. There will be free coloring book pages created from Rose’s work.

When she was born in 1982, her parents were told that her brain would stop developing at age 5 or 6. At 40, she left a truly magical legacy. 

Zemke says, “In a certain sense she was the most brilliant, elegant, vestige-come-to-life of pure creativity in our world, and may we all be so blessed to feel that within ourselves. And, you know, her legacy will live on and on and on because she left us the message in images.

Come enjoy the Legacy Art Show “I am Everything I Am,” celebrating the creative artistry of Katy (Catlin) Rose Caplette at Eagle Mount, 6901 Goldenstein Lane in Bozeman on Saturday, April 13th from 4:30 to 8 pm.   

A founding member of Women Writing the West, Jenna Caplette is at work on a book dedicated to Rose’s artistry, as well as a memoir.