Caitlin Little is not a performer fueled by money or recognition. She doesn’t have any formal artistic training. But that hasn’t stopped her from cementing a position in Omaha’s local arts scene. Passion drives her and absurdity defines her art.
“I always loved reading and imagining,” Little says. “I would take road trips in my living room. I could be whoever I wanted to in a costume. I think it really helped me navigate the world.”
Though she’s been performing in some way most of her life, Little says she didn’t describe her performances and events as art until 2012. At the time, she was doing guerrilla performances, meaning she would arrive at an event and put on a show of her own.
One of Little’s strangest performances was “the pancake man”—not the individual who caters events around Omaha with his mobile pancake business—but rather a surreal idea brought to life in a performance.
Little took to the street to become the pancake man during Lincoln Calling, a festival bringing musicians and artists to Lincoln, Nebraska venues. For hours she cooked pancakes, wore them, and covered herself in mock syrup—even making herself a mask out of the breakfast staple.
“Nobody knew what was going on. All of the sudden there’s music playing, and someone’s making pancakes in the middle of the street,” she says.
Positioned in plain view of festival-goers, everyone walking past was forced to witness the strange happenings. This was by design. Little planned on anyone and everyone seeing her breakfast food repurposing.
“I hate pancakes. I grew up super-poor, and we had pancakes for a lot of meals,” Little says. “But I love ritual. I love the idea of starting and creating something that’s repetitive.”
As with most of Little’s performances, the purpose was not clear—not even to her. That’s a recurring theme in her art. She doesn’t set out with any goals in mind, but she certainly expects her audience to feel something.
“A lot of times I feel like, in the performances…I’m compelled to do whatever I’m doing.”
Little has been involved with the Omaha art scene for some time. She has been a part of Benson First Friday since the beginning, long before it transformed into the community-centered nonprofit it is today.
J.D. Hardy has known her since that time. The University of South Florida graduate student, fellow artist, and Little’s close friend has also been with Benson First Friday since the beginning.
“She’s always dreaming up ideas,” Hardy says of Little. “I think it filters out in each performance she does.”
Describing Little as “a fearless individual with a plethora of projects always in the making,” Hardy continues to find her work profound—but with unexpected twists.
“A lot of her work has to do with humor. That’s like a very direct way to get to a concept of humanity,” Hardy says.
Little’s future is not set in stone. Her Instagram chronicles a varied history of artistic expression. “I think it’s really important to do things that maybe people haven’t seen or make people uncomfortable even though they’re things that might be normal or natural,” she says.
Visit @imcaitlinlittle on Instagram for more information.
This article was printed in the May 2019 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.