INTERVIEW : ALEAH CHAPIN

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Resides: Brooklyn, NY
Work: Contemporary, Nude, Realism Painter
Links: Website, Facebook, Instagram

“I remind myself that getting harsh criticism means that I’m making work that is worthy of a conversation.”

Some would call the works of Aleah Chapin “tough” or “repellent”, but what do they know. The talent and brilliance behind her contemporary nude paintings make some say, “is this a photograph?”. Realism at its finest. Aleah was raised outside of Seattle, where she discovered art and has since moved to New York to study and continue making one of a kind pieces. Here we discuss being comfortable in your own skin, her small hometown, and her BP Portrait Award.

Aleah, let’s get this going. You’re currently living in the amazing and incredible New York City, but you’re a West Coaster originally. What brought you over?

I came for graduate school at the New York Academy of Art. I actually didn’t really want to move here, but after a few months I realized I loved it. I’ve been here a little over four years, but I miss the West Coast quite a bit.

Do you make it back often?

Yeah. As often as possible. Its like a re-start button for me.

What’s the art scene like in your hometown?

My hometown has 1,000 people, but all are very creative so its relatively good.

Outside of Seattle, yes?

Yes, on an island north of Seattle. It was a great place to grow up in and I was surrounded by interesting, artsy people, which was not only inspiring, but as a young child I knew that I could grow up and do anything I wanted. I had a lot of good examples of what was possible.

Is that what sparked your interest?

I think so. All kids draw, I just never stopped. My mom is also an artist, so I knew that it was possible. I was really lucky that way. I think a lot of kids love to create, but parents don’t always encourage it because they feel like it won’t be a supportive career. While I admit, it is difficult, it absolutely can be a career.

There must be a span of several years in between drawing as a child to drawing realistic nudes. What attracts you to this style of painting?

(laughs)

Yeah, true. Since I was a little kid, really since I can remember, I was fascinated by “making things look real”, and I always loved drawing people. It was pretty frustrating because there’s only so much a five year old can do in terms of realism. I remember my mom showing me how to draw a face when I was probably that age. In terms of the nude thing, there’s so much that is said through the clothes that we wear, and I was never really interested in that when it came to making work. I wanted to have a sort of timelessness, and we all have bodies.

Do you still have these creations lying around somewhere?

My parents have a box in their basement. Probably quite a few boxes.

(laughs)

You make a great point. We do all have bodies. You’ve said before that “women are not supposed to show that they have lived”. Society has seemed to create this image of the perfect man and perfect woman, and that’s all we see. You’re absolutely knocking that barrier down with your work.

Thanks. I hope so. We can also hide under clothes, but we can’t hide what our bodies show, and I don’t think we should. Of course, I don’t think we should go being naked all the time. I love clothes! I just think we should be more accepting and compassionate towards our bodies.

Comfortable in your own skin.

Exactly. We hear that term a lot, I think, but its easier said than done.

Of course. On the other side, you’ve got some tough critics out there calling your work “tough” and “repellent”. What do you say to them?

Yeah. Not sure what to say to them actually. It can be hard to hear, but then I remind myself that getting harsh criticism means that I’m making work that is worthy of a conversation. I suppose its also because of those people that I continue to make the work that I make. If our culture will call a healthy (yet not unrealistically perfect) body “repellent”, then its something we as a society need to look at.

In a way you’re creating conversation, which is always great. Get people talking, thinking about ourselves as a society. Art and criticism go hand in hand.

Yeah, they do. I think art can be a mirror to how a society thinks.

Also, in a way, you’re a photographer. What is your process from start to finish?

I wouldn’t call myself a photographer, but I love photography and I do use it in my work. I have found that a camera can be an incredible way to discover complex aspects of an individual. One of the reasons I use a camera is because I can see the person as they are, and their personality can come through instead of me imposing an idea on them by way of making them stand in a certain pose for 100+ hours. The camera lets the project be a collaboration between myself and the person I am painting. So, I will often take hundreds of photos. Then, I will choose one or two to become paintings. I then draw the composition on the canvas with paint, trying to get the under painting done in one day before it dries, which can sometimes be difficult, especially with the big ones. Then, layer after layer of color until the painting breaths.

Do you set the scene for them, or are all their movements and poses their own?

I will sometimes suggest a bit, but I like to leave a lot open to the moment and the environment.

Such a natural feel to your work, almost palpable. Let’s talk about your BP Portrait Award. How did it feel receiving that?

Amazing, and really surreal, and thank you! I was just hoping to get into that show. Getting shortlisted was insane, then being there and finding out that my painting, a naked painting of this woman I’ve known all my life (literally, she was in the room when I was born), had won. I still can’t believe it sometimes.

Thats amazing. Was she there?

No. She almost came, but decided not to. She was really supportive of the whole thing. It was a lot for both of us to handle at times, in very different ways of course. Neither of us knew how big of a deal it would be though.

What a surreal feeling. So you have a show in London coming to an end soon. How has it been?

Yeah, it ends on the 8th. It’s been amazing. Having a solo show there is a bit of a dream come true. Everyone at Flowers Gallery are such wonderful people that its been a great experience.

What are your top 3 “dream-come-trues”?

Well, besides everything that’s happened with my work already, which is more than I could have dreamed of 10 years ago, build my own house (or renovate one), have a family, and continue to make the work I want to make and have opportunities to put it out in the world.

Keep doing what you’re doing, Aleah. Any last words for readers to know?

Maybe just a sincere thank you to everyone who has supported what I’m doing. It means so much to know that my work is bigger than just me in my studio trying to make beautiful things. It helps me continue when I have doubts and when it gets difficult. So, thank you, thank you!

All work Copyright (c) Aleah Chapin. You can check out more from Aleah on her website and Facebook.

Thank you for reading, tell your friends, your family, and everyone else you know to join The Kind Artist Facebook page! 

Copyright (c) The Kind Artist. 2014.

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Kandinsky’s 148th Celebrated with Google Doodle & Our Kandinksy Audio Primer

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Today, Russian abstract painter, Wassily Kandinsky’s 148th birthday is being celebrated as a Google Doodle. It reminds us of our old HAHA MAG Kandinsky audio tour, when we tried to make your Russian art experience a little more interesting and a lot less aggravating. I for one, had never been very impressed with Russia’s artistic visual history. I just didn’t get it, sometimes I think I still don’t.

But I have learned, the thing about Russian art is, if you step away from it and put the aesthetic aspect aside, you are literally getting a history lesson. Someone once told me that “every change in style, taste, imagery and even brush stroke comes down to the distinct political and social changes Russia experienced. You can trace the origins and the fall of communism through Russia’s art. You can pin point the moment Stalin died, you’ll know without hesitation that Khrushchev made his secret speech denouncing Stalin precipitating the thaw, and you’ll see that Gorbachev has come to power and that any minute now the wall was coming down and Russia would be scrambling to create a new history…”

That same person created this great audio tour for non-art enthusiasts, to prove that art can be intriguing. At the time, the Guggenheim was exhibiting, The Geometry of Kandinsky and Malevich, and the tour was created for viewing specific pieces in that exhibit. Though that exhibit is long gone, the Guggenheim still holds one of the largest collections of Kandinsky’s work.

Fortunately, you don’t need to be on site to view the art, we have everything you need in this handy little audio tour package:

Click here to download your Kandinsky_Malevich Audio Tour

Your Handy Package includes: MP3s, Photos, Intro to Audio Tour, and a trusty map

HAHA’s audio tours were always intended to get you away from the crowds – to be informative in a different kind of way. If you can’t make it to an exhibit you can experience it here. If you’re turned off by the snobbish atmosphere of big museums, you’ve come to the right place… get educated and enjoy it. You won’t get the same up close and personal experience with a real art piece, but hopefully you’ll leave with a completely different perspective.

*Click here to see the original post in which the audio tour appeared.

DANIEL ARSHAM Welcome To the Future @ Locus Projects

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Miami, Florida – My pictures do it little justice – the orchestrated rip in the ground filled with replicas of everyday objects that project our generations wanton needs and everyday desires.

The site specific exhibit, Welcome To the Future transforms the Locus Projects into a archaeological dig yet to happen.  You stand on the edge of the trench, peering over into a sea of VHS tapes, keyboards, boom boxes, video game controllers, film reels, Blackberries, SLR cameras all rendered from obsidian (dark natural glass the forms when lava cools), rock dust and crystals. At your feet lay the devices that have all, at one time or another, seemed impossible to live without, now representing narratives of past, present, and future. As I stood there, I wondered what the objects might say to future generations about our use of time. Will they be able to determine what our relationships to these ‘things’ were?

It excavated a lot of feelings, being made to look at iconic references from the 21st century in way that predates the way of life I still recognize.  The conflict, I’m sure will be individually unique and open to the interpretation of each viewer.  Welcome to the Future has a surprisingly even-killed feeling ( a calmness partially due to the objects graduated tones of white and grays) for an exhibit that plays on your concepts of stability and consistency.

Overall, I think Arsham intends to engage us in thoughtful dialogue without forcing you to fake finding a ‘purpose to life’ amongst the rumble.  I say that in a wholly appreciative way.

“Welcome to the Future” will be open to the public until January 2015.

Daniel Arsham Welcome to the Future @Locust Projects
3852 N. Miami Ave.
Miami, FL 33127

 

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Luminous Bike Path gives Gentle Nod to Van Gogh’s Starry Night

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Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde’s – known for developing the Netherlands first glow-in-the-dark Smart Highway has designed a new cycle path inspired by Vincent Van Gogh’s painting Starry Night.

The Van Gogh-Roosegaarde Bicycle Path opened yesterday in Nuenen [The Netherlands]. The cycle path is illuminated with swirling patterns, coated with a special paint that uses energy (gathered from near by solar panels) during the day to glow after dark. LEDs curve alongside of the paths turns to generate extra light when the weather doesn’t allow the panels to charge the surface to its full capacity.

Very poetically, the swirling paths that reference the patterns in Starry Night, go right through the Dutch province of Noord Brabant, where the artist was born and raised.

Via Dezeen

 

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Chicago Artist Fills Potholes With Amazing Mosaics

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I think its apparent that Chicago based artist, Jim Bachor got tired of his city’s pothole problem. These beautiful flower adorned mosaics are more than just a axle saver – it’s some serious street art that I hope catches on in other cities (preferably my own …Philly potholes are murderous and plentiful).

The mosaics were put in this fall; Bachor has a handy list of addresses up on his website – go discover if any of the mosaics survived the crush of the tire.

If you’re in the windy city, Bachor is exhibiting his free standing mosaics at the Packer Schopf Gallery in Chicago, November 9 to December 13, 2014.

via Colossal

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Ai Wei Wei Transforms Alcatraz Hospital Ward Fixtures with Porcelain Blossoms

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Now through April 26, 2015, the infamous fortress and prison, Alcatraz will house new perspectives the stories of those that were imprisoned within its walls. Contemporary artist and social activist, Ai Wei Wei’s exhibition @Large was created especially for the location, the work features seven different art installs that raise questions and hopefully create more awareness on social injustice, human rights and freedom of expression.

We’re giving you a peek into the quietly powerful install “Blossom”. Blossom is meant to draw on and alter its natural imagery to carry out symbolic associations. Detailed porcelain flowers come forth and fill up the sinks, bathtubs and toilets in Alcatraz’s abandoned hospital wards and medical wing. Plain white blossoms possibly for the get well bouquets that never came, to comfort the memory of the inmates that once were here.

There’s been a widely circulated quote from Wei Wei on the message of @Large …

“The misconception of totalitarianism is that freedom can be imprisoned. This is not the case. When you constrain freedom, freedom will take flight and land on a windowsill.”

Make your own assessments but I think that pretty much wraps it up.

@Large will be open through April 26, 2015

For more information on visiting the exhibit, visit For Site Foundation

(via Colossal)

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Paul Strand: Master of Modern Photography Opens at Philadelphia Museum of Art

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Paul Strand: Master of Modern Photography opens today, to the general public at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  It’s the largest and most comprehensive major retrospective of his work in nearly 50 years- a celebration of the museum’s recent acquisition of more than 3,000 prints from the Paul Strand Archive.

The exhibition explores the evolution of Strand’s work over a spanned period of time; a well-versed turn through the relationships that helped garner his engaging shots.

Along with Strand’s compelling photography are great interactive components that should lure in even the mildly curious. Key photography books that highlight his work in New England, Luzzara, and Ghana, long since out of print, have been digitized allowing you to virtually explore them page by page. Clips from three of his most significant films can be viewed in either of the 2 screening rooms within the exhibit. (The films will be screened in their entirety at the International House later along with four films from other directors that impacted his filmmaking.)

The show also places a reflective look on his travels and relationships with interesting backs stories played out through personal effects such as: travel notes scrawled across a road map of Ghana, key works from photographers who greatly influenced Strand, and two weathered cameras Strand used to take some of these iconic photos.

Peter Barbarie’s curatorial affects have been translated throughout the exhibit with a richness of study that mount up to helping an audience see what made Strand a master at his craft. This is an exhibit you walk away from with more than just the memory of a photo.

 

Paul Strand: Master of Modern Photography opens at the Philadelphia Museum of Art from October 21, 2014 – January 4, 2015

For more information on the full range of programming built around Strand’s work throughout the duration of the exhibit, visit the PMA’s official site.

Paris deflates McCarthy’s ‘so called’ Christmas Tree Installation cause it looks like…

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Here’s a fine time to talk about how we view art. How many people see a Christmas tree and how many of you see…well, you know.

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US artist Paul McCarthy drew outrage from some Parisans’ when his 80 ft high installation erected at the famed landmark, Place Vendome was said to ‘vaguely’ resemble a Christmas Tree.

The inflatable green sculpture, Tree was part of FIAC (International Contemporary Art Fair), who gave the artist carte blanche to create a piece for the square as part of it’s ‘Beyond The Walls’ program.  Seems like they may have wanted to preview this one.

Shortly after its erection, came reports of vandals efforts to sabotage the piece by cutting the support cables, and tampering with the fans that allowed it to inflate properly.  The artist even reported being struck in the face by several angry bystanders. By Saturday evening, McCarthy agreed with the decision bring Tree down permanently.

McCarthy talked with French magazine, LeMonde on Friday, admitting that some of the inspiration for the installation was derived from a joke about a sex toy.  “It all started with a joke. Originally, I thought that a butt plug had a shape similar to the sculptures of Constantin Brâncusi. Afterwards, I realized that it looked like a Christmas tree,” McCarthy said.

“People can be offended if they want to think of it as a plug, but for me it is more of an abstraction.” (thanks Google Translator)

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Lets’s face it…this is McCarthy’s style, less we forget his landing a giant pile of  inflatable poop on the lawn in Hong Kong’s West Kowloon district during the outdoor art project “Mobile M+: Inflation! or his 2011 ‘Santa’ sculpture in the city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands, which held that suspicious looking ‘tree’.

Meanwhile he’s got a new show coming up in Paris, Chocolate Factory, opening on October 25th at the CCC. I’m guessing that’s going to be the site of the next McCarthy controversy.

(AP Photos/Francois Mori,European Press Photo Agency )

story via RTnews, LeMonde, Wall Street Journal

 

PICHI & AVO TURN SHIPPING CONTAINERS INTO CANVASES FIT FOR THE GODS

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This week I discovered the work of Spanish graffiti duo Pichi & Avo. Their juxtaposition of the ancient with the modern have me geeking out. This past July, during the North West Walls Street Art Festival in Werchter, Belgium the pair created a canvas out of stacked shipping containers. The result was a towering layer of Greek Gods sprayed in radiant colors, layered with orchestrated bursts of graffiti…take that Olympus.

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via Colossal

Josh Kline’s Unusual Juice Fast Hits New York’s High Line Art

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It’s been awhile since I’ve been to New York’s High Line, but the current group exhibition Archeo, about technology and obsolescence, is calling me back. In particular I’m dying to see this clever and snarky installation aimed at contemporary lifestyles by artist Josh Kline entitled “Skittles”.

The piece features an industrial refrigerator stocked with fake juices that resemble those over-priced $10 bottles you find in your local ‘healthy stuff’ store. Kline gives them that familiar look – you know, where a simple list of ingredients serves as the only labeling. There they are all lined up and packaged like color coded, stylized advertising kool-aid. A closer look at the labeling will uncover an ‘unconventional and poetic combinations of ingredients’ Kline feels make up the latest lifestyles we’re all so quick to consume.

“Each smoothie stands as a portrait of a different contemporary lifestyle. When grouped together, they evoke a landscape of aspiration, taste, and – at times – deprivation in a metropolis like New York City.” – Josh Kline

Archeo will stay on the High Line until March 2015.

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via JunkCulture

Eliza Bennett – A WOMAN’S WORK IS NEVER DONE

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They are self-inflicted, the lines of thread embroidered into Bennett’s palm. You might gawk, or be repulsed – but it is a narrative for artist Eliza Bennett. Embroidery is commonly associated with stereotypical, old-fashioned femininity. Her stitched palm – with colored lines, create a distortion of bruises and battering that reflects the perception of a lived experience. It showcases the effects of labor intensive work, challenging the pre-conceived notion that a ‘woman’s work’ is light and easy.

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HM: As a child I remember using my grandmother’s thread and needle to stitch over my skin as well. For what reason I don’t recall – but, I was clearly fascinated by it. When I stumbled across your work, I had a very violent yet nostalgic reaction to it.

Did you have any apprehensions to sharing this project with others? I’m imagining that the initial reactions would be that this is a form of self-mutilation disguising itself as art.

EB: A fellow former skin stitcher!

Interesting first question; particularly as I am not sure whether you are male or female. I rather like it that way, there’s no danger of me focusing my responses with that in mind. I am aware that often my intention for the piece is overlooked, that of applying a ‘feminine’ technique to create a work worn unsettling piece, and it appears to have been received by some as a form of egocentric self-harm. This troubles me, as much as it makes me laugh. Re: self-harm.

I wonder why when we modify ourselves to fit an idea of accepted beauty it is ok, but such strong reactions abound when a modification that is outside of accepted norms occurs. Why do people feel the need to validate their reactions by making assumptions, rather than questioning why they are reacting that way? I was pretty dogmatic about certain things when I was younger. At some point I began to listen to opinions that didn’t only validate my own.

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HM: Someone pointed out in the comments of your last interview that most of the male responses to your work were negative and female responses are positive. I thought that was interesting because while it’s easier for women to relate with other woman, I typically find that women are more critical of their own sex. Why do think the men had a more volatile reaction?

EB: I am uncomfortable making gender based generalizations, and have personally received mixed responses from both sexes. So I’m not convinced that that’s necessarily a correct observation. I think the responses are less gender specific and more personal to the individual. Some viewers mistake the piece for a feminist protest, but I don’t think of it like that. It’s about human value. After all, there are many men employed in caring, catering, cleaning etc. all jobs traditionally considered to be women’s work. Such work is invisible in the larger society, with ‘A woman’s work…’ I aim to represent it.

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