Blast From The Past: Walker Babington, Karen Crighton And Keenan O'Meara
Have you ever read a great novel, only to be dismayed at the discovery of a cliffhanger? Have you ever glanced over a news article, only to wonder what happened to the child prodigy with Broadway aspirations or the old lady who lived in a shoe? (OK, maybe that last example wasn’t from a news story).
The Voice staff is looking back at stories covered in past years to bring you an update or reflect on events that shaped the community. This month, we revisited articles on an artist turned stuntman, a New York actress and a Severn School graduate who is now flourishing as a musician.
A Conversation With Walker Babington
Print Date: March 8, 2012
“Unorthodox is a good way to describe my whole life,” said Walker Babington with a laugh. The 2003 Severna Park High School graduate got his start in the art world by blowtorching portraits of women into pieces of old wood, doors and rusted metal. He called the fire-centric art “pyrography” or “torchtraiture.”
While most kids dream of hitting a walk-off home run in the World Series or being thrust into space, Babington had a different goal. “Being lit on fire has been a dream of mine since I was 16 years old,” he said back in 2012. “I think some great performance art will come out of my art and stunts.”
After moving to New Orleans — allured by the ambiance, music, food and architecture — he engaged in that performance art, making fire angels while lit ablaze. His training, in part, came from the International Stunt School in Seattle.
Yet Babington never stopped making art. In the Big Easy, he frequents Jackson Square, tackling everything from “pictures of old local churches to portraiture to the pulmonary heart.” When he’s not using a blowtorch to create his masterpieces, Babington harvests sunlight with a magnifying glass to etch pictures.
“I was experimenting with a whole bunch of ways to create new images and recreate my photographs using destructive things, so an old tabletop and scratching it with a fork to create my image or using melted candles,” he said, explaining how he came across the magnifying glass idea.
Although Babington lives roughly 1,200 miles away from his hometown, Severna Park residents can still catch him on the big screen. He had a three-minute part in the Denzel Washington- and Chris Pratt-led film “The Magnificent Seven,” and he was featured in the indie film “Strange Weather” and an episode of the TV show “NCIS: New Orleans.” As a stuntman, he served as Sam Rockwell’s body double in the film “Better Living Trough Chemistry.” He also worked on a zombie flick in which he got “hit with an SUV and blasted through the chest with a shotgun.”
Aside from doing stunts, and making art using blowtorches and magnifying glasses, Babington has stayed busy crafting treehouse-sized chicken huts based off the witch Baba Yaga, a notorious figure in Russian folklore. “I would describe it as Dr. Seuss meets Tim Burton,” he said of his style.
In the next calendar year, he plans to hold a gallery show, create a website, and continue to bedazzle onlookers with spectacle, a mission forged during his youth in Severna Park.
“For a lot of my early years, looking toward being an artist, I felt like I was tiptoeing into it and I was not sure I could do it before throwing in the towel,” Babington said. “But in the past few years, it’s been really good, and that gives me confidence and pride in what I’m creating.”
Severna Park’s Karin Crighton Debuts In New York
Print Date: February 7, 2013
Singing, acting and brandishing a bamboo sword were all part of a day’s professional work for Karin Crighton, a Severna Park native who made her New York stage debut in 2013 in the musical “Kikki & Grandpa & Baby.” The actor, who also works as a writer, director, producer and graphic designer, had recently relocated to New York to pursue her career, and landed the role of Ei Yaa in the stage adaptation of Yutaka Okada’s novel about a young woman and her surrogate family in a Japanese riverside homeless camp.
Crighton has continued to build her résumé since “Kikki & Grandpa & Baby.” She won a role in Jennifer B. White’s independent horror film “Mary: Loss of Soul” as Mary’s therapist. The experience led to several commercial opportunities. After spending time on film sets, Crighton realized a desire to direct and produce, and she entered the Wonderland150 celebration through the Pharaoh Arts Council in Greece. Along with her film partner, Crighton created a short detailing the chapter “Pig and Pepper” from the original novel of “Alice in Wonderland.”
Last summer, she was approached by a fellow actor to assist in creating a web series based on his zany experiences as a hotel concierge in New York City. “I wrote the script, and after months of casting and preproduction, we produced a pilot that is now in post for potential distribution,” Crighton explained. “‘Checking Out’ follows concierge David as he tries to juggle his own career aspirations and the misadventures of his coworkers at Hotel Fiasco. Up next, I’ve been asked to direct an independent production of ‘Proof’ that will be opening in spring in Manhattan, starring Danielle Joy as Catherine.
“I continue to explore all the avenues of creative expression the theater and film industry affords in this incredible city,” she added.
Keenan O’Meara Sings On Grammy-Nominated Album
Print Date: February 10, 2016
Although some of the tracks on Keenan O’Meara’s four-song “Awful Creature” EP sounded like the handiwork of a dejected soul, the folk singer had plenty to celebrate when we caught up with him last year. The Severn School alum had released a thought-provoking album in September 2015, and “Wonderful,” his duet with British songstress Lianne La Havas, was featured on her album “Blood,” which was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Urban Contemporary Album category alongside immensely popular albums “Wildheart” by Miguel and “Beauty Behind the Madness” by The Weeknd.
Building on that momentum, O’Meara produced the second half of the “Awful Creature” EP, “Blink of Light,” in October 2016. Allowing him to stay engaged are multiple outlets for his musical skills.
“Making ‘Awful Creature’ felt like surgery, it felt confrontational and personal. I don't think I could be a musician if it were that way all the time,” O’Meara admitted. “I do a lot of work for hire, compositions, cowrites, play in other peoples bands, etc. I can't say I have the same attitude in any one of those endeavors alone.”
For 2017, he will continue chipping away at a new record, releasing self-produced covers and cowrites with colleagues Kan Wakan and Owen Ross (who sometimes performs as Goste), and touring with David Duchovny's band.
“I think when I was starting out, it felt important to identify as a musician, but I feel like that was mostly because I was insecure about who I was and where I was going,” O’Meara said. “Uncertainty is the main idea behind identity in my opinion. I hope to strive to define myself less and just be content in exploring and experiencing things as they come along.”