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Artist and poet Tyler Gaca on capturing the surreal, whimsical, and ghostly in the everyday

In new book, ‘Gentle Chaos: Poems, Tales, and Magic,’ the Los Angeles artist, writer, and TikTok celeb reflects on art, magic, and queerness

Mixed media artist Tyler Gaca is known as Ghosthoney on social media, where he has 3 million followers on TikTok.Provided

In Tyler Gaca’s corner of the internet, you are just as likely to come across fantastical skits about a sentient blueberry bush or a morally ambiguous cryptid hunter, as you are a surrealist skit about the Rubin’s Vase optical illusion taking on a life of its own.

Though some of the multimedia artist’s videos, posted for millions of followers on TikTok under the moniker Ghosthoney, are straightforward and silly (showing off a thrifted pirate shirt, touring copious house plants), they often take dreamlike twists, in which reality shifts unexpectedly into the uncanny. (For example, a straightforward clip of Tyler recording a podcast is interrupted by an encounter with a glowing-eyed goblin living under his bed.) Though the content can tilt toward the macabre, even the bleak elements are approached with warmth — the aforementioned goblin is quieted by eating a sock, and then requests a glass of scotch.


The whole shebang creates a wholesome whimsy that has made Gaca’s work a standout on social media — an ethos that is reflected in the dreamy, reflective poems, essays, and artwork featuring in his first book, “Gentle Chaos: Poems, Tales, and Magic,” which launched Oct. 3 from Running Press. We caught up with Gaca about “Gentle Chaos” on a phone call in advance of his Oct. 12 appearance at Harvard Book Store in discussion with Ash Kell and Alaina Urquhart-White, the hosts of true crime podcast “Morbid.”

The debut book from Tyler Gaca (a.k.a. Ghosthoney)Provided

Q. I liked how your book paired essayistic reflections, poetry, and art. The visual artistry came through as much as the poetry.

A. I’d consider myself a multimedia artist. My work spans different mediums, whether it be painting, drawing, photography, or poetry and creative writing. Even in art school, I created a body of work through the lens of an alter ego, with paintings, screen prints, and a small book of poetry to explain the narrative and lore.


Q. In one section, you reflected on turning 10, and crying about inevitable death.

A. I think that fear of death is how my anxiety and depression manifested at a young age. On my 10th birthday, I had my first panic attack because I realized I was turning two digits. I spiraled in my yard after school, like, “Oh my God, death is closer than ever.”

Q. In addition to the thoughts about death, though, you really capture this lovely feeling of magic hiding in the everyday, in plain sight.

A. Magic has been one of the biggest constants in my life. When I was 4 or 5 years old, there was a period where I wouldn’t leave the house without a matching top hat, cape, and a trick magic wand that looked like it was levitating. I would go up to strangers to show them my trick.

Q. You wrote about a moment where you realized you felt too old for trick-or-treating, and felt shame. It felt poignant — one of these shared coming-of-age moments where you lose that appreciation for magic. How do you practice holding on to it, instead?

A. Especially growing up as a queer child, the last thing you want sometimes is attention. You don’t want to stand out, you don’t want to be weird or different. At some point when I was younger where I thought, “I’m standing out. I’m too different. I need to change and fly under the radar.”


Q. How did you get into making videos?

A. [After graduating from] art school, I stopped painting and making art. But I had all of these ideas for skits. I began recording and posting in spring of 2019. I started to get recognition. It was so encouraging and validating to realize, “Oh, all of these people are kind of weirdos, too. They love this stuff as much as you do.”

Q. You wrote about subverting expectations with your appearance — you were known for having this long hair and then felt the desire to cut it off. I love that approach to transformation. Hair carries so much.

A. I’ve always had this cycle of growing my hair really long, then cutting it off. But when I became more visible on social media, I was in a phase of growing my hair out. And then it didn’t feel like me anymore, so I cut it, and everybody said, “Oh, he’s spiraling. Oh no, he’s lost it.”

Q. I suppose being known on social media allows for a lot of projection, or expectation of how you should be showing up.

A. Yes. It can be such a freeing act to reclaim your own identity and realize that your physical appearance is up for you to decide and nobody else. There’s so much power behind that act.

Q. You also launched a journal and a deck of oracle cards featuring art from the book. Do you have a favorite?


A. “The Cave” might be one of my favorite cards. I think that was taken off the coast of Highway One, on Pfeiffer Beach. It reads, “The cave is a reminder of the magic that can be found in solitude and by looking inward.”

Q. That makes sense. Solitude as necessary for big creation.

A. The imagery evokes trying to find magic and solitude near the ocean and salt water as well. That’s been huge for my creative process — finding the time to be by myself to reflect. That’s when the writing and art that I love the most happens.

Q. There was a strongly felt thread of connection to and reverence for nature in the book.

A. My mom instilled that reverence for nature in us growing up. She volunteered at a wild animal sanctuary. We’d go camping and hiking, and do activities like tree rubbings, and also dissecting owl pellets for fun — which probably explains my love for bones and little weird things like that.

Q. I’d say connecting with nature definitely ties to an awareness of life and death cycles.

A. I think it’s my love for nature that helped soothe my fear of death, actually, because death is so visible in nature. You see things die and become reborn all of the time. Now, death doesn’t really cause that panic in me that it did when I was 10 years old. I find peace in the idea that when I’m gone, parts of me will live on.


Tyler Gaca discusses “Gentle Chaos: Poems, Tales, and Magic,” Thursday, Oct. 12, 7 p.m., at Harvard Book Store, 1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge.

Interview was edited and condensed.

Gina Tomaine can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @gtomaine.