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.

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Copyright (c) The Kind Artist. 2014.

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THE BOOK PAINTINGS OF EKATERINA PANIKANOVA

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These book paintings satisfy my dual need for art and book porn.  Ekaterina Panikanova layers her paintings across a collage of  discolored pages still bound to old books, creating a landscape of words and images that feel very much like treasured stories escaping the confines of covers and spines. For Panikanova the merge of words and images symbolize the gradual awakening, constant pondering and accumulated knowledge of man… “My work is, somehow, a suggestion about life: the text can’t be erased, but you can turn the page if you want to. I prefer not to fix my works in time and thus I always try to create works with movement. The everyday life is basically anchored to the past, therefore both our present and our future are strongly bound to our past experiences.”

Ekaterina was born in Russia and lives and works in Rome. She is currently being represented by Converge Gallery in Williamsport, PA.

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*Works featured:

Happy Turkey Ink, watercolor, and graphite on aged books. Mounted on birch. 43” x 51” 2014,

Box Num 53 Ink, watercolor, and graphite on aged books. Mounted on birch. 20” x 25” 2014

Birthday Ink, watercolor, and graphite on aged books. Mounted on birch. 47” x 53” 2014

Photo credit: Ginger Rudolph

Photo credit: Ginger Rudolph – photo set taken at Converge Gallery at Scope Art Fair in NY 2014

Jos de Gruyter and Herald Thys Remove Color in “Miracle of Life”

Jos de Gruyter & Harald Thys, De Drie Wijsneuzen, 2013

Water spews from the mouths of three blank faces. Without expression nor body, the pure white heads stand guard, looking out in three directions. Rising high into the air, they watch you and they watch the surrounding art works

In the new exhibition at Kunsthalle Wien in Austria, Das Wunder de Lebens (The Miracle of Life), Belgian artist duo Jos de Gruyter and Herald Thys use an all-white color palette to remove hierarchical structures from objects, with the goal of creating an open arena for sight.

De Drie Wijsneuzen, 2013 (Photo by Stephan Wyckoff. Courtesy of Isabella Bortolozzi Galerie, Berlin)

De Drie Wijsneuzen, 2013 (Photo by Stephan Wyckoff. Courtesy of Isabella Bortolozzi Galerie, Berlin)

Curated with a minimal and orderly aesthetic, the exhibition produces an eery, science-like atmosphere, augmented by the steady trickling of water, in which the viewer contemplates the ‘miracle of life.’ The exhibition title refers to a 1934 exhibition for Nazi propaganda, in which the ideal of deutschen Rassenhygiene (German racial hygiene) was promoted. Alluding to Nazi Eugenics programs, the Gruyter and Thys offer both a commentary on modern society and a warning signal to contemporary viewers.

400 drawings of cars, city views, weather maps, and several other markers of modern life are no longer objective in the staged exhibition context. Stripped of color and displayed with a sense of authority, the encyclopedia of information suddenly becomes an index of political and cultural cues. Examining the drawings of everyday scenes and objects, the viewer finds himself seeking deeper truths within the innocuous images and mapping his own meaning unto various objects. As the viewer moves through the exhibition space, he becomes both scientist and actor, the center of his own arena, in which it is his responsibility to remain neutral and to resist the human impulse to create hierarchies and statuses.

A daring and provocative exhibition, Das Wunder de Lebens is an exercise in visual discipline.

Das Wunder de Lebens is on display until May 4, 2014 and is accompanied by an audio guide as well as an extensive video program by Gruyter and Thys.

Installation View (Photograph by Stephan Wyckoff)

Untitled, 2010 (Photo by Stephan Wyckoff, Courtesy of Zeichnungen)

Untitled, 2010 (Photo by Stephan Wyckoff, Courtesy of Zeichnungen)

Installation View (Photo by Stephen Wyckoff)

Installation View (Photo by Stephen Wyckoff)

Michel Majerus at Matthew Marks Gallery

Michel Majerus

The most comprehensive retrospective since the tragic death of 35-year old Michel Majerus, the Berlin-based protégé of Joseph Kosuth, this exhibition will span all three Matthew Marks gallery spaces in Chelsea. Large scale paintings, such as “o.T. (collaboration Nr. 8)” (1999) make direct references to art historical motifs like Jean-Michel Basquiat’s signature figures and inclusion of words, as well as advertisements from consumer products, like the GE logo. This hyper-awareness of one’s context within an environment heavily influenced by the temptation to make commercial gains on popular culture made Majerus stand out among his peers.

Michel Majerus opens February 8 with a reception from 6:00- 8:00 PM.

The exhibition will be on display until April 19, 2014 at 522, 526, and 502 W. 22nd St.

Michel Majerus

o.t. (collaboration Nr. 8) (1999)

Motivation

untitled (1998)

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depressive neurosis (2000)

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Tron 5 (hellblau Pantone 311) (1999)

Ashley Oubré – Visual Trickery

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  1. “Brenda”, 11 x 14, graphite pencil on paper
  2. “Ivy League”, 11 x 14, graphite pencil on paper
  3. “Prestige”, 11 x 14, graphite pencil on paper
  4. “Swimfan”, 11 x 14, graphite pencil on paper

The images above, while indistinguishable from photographs  were drawn by Ashley Oubré,  27, a self-taught artist from Washington  D.C. Oubré’s portraits exist in a realm far beyond mere pencil drawings in what can only be defined as “hyperrealism.” Oubré’s pieces, each executed with immaculate detail and precision, vary in degrees of abstraction, a refreshing rarity for this genre of art.  Her subjects are often composed in a world of vacancy (sometimes figuratively; either “floating” on the page; rendered in a distant corner; or with literal bodily extraction), mirroring the artist’s own struggles of isolation and loneliness.  To view Oubré’s work is to be invited into an “Alice in Wonderland”-like world; the viewer is first enchanted by the beauty of her craftsmanship, only to find himself trapped in a world both undefined and surreal.

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To learn more about Ashley, and to see her portfolio, visit www.ashleyoubre.com or e-mail her at info@ashleyoubre.com.

Dead Drops Comes to Philly

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Berlin artist, Aram Bartholl started Dead Drops during his artist residency at EYEBEAM in New York during 2010. Dead Drops is an anonymous, offline, peer-to-peer file-sharing network put into public spaces. A USB flash drive is embedded into a wall and made accessible to anyone.

The first 5 Dead Drops (clicking here will show you where in each of the locations) were done in NY – wonder if any are still out there?

87 3rd Avenue, Brooklyn, NY (Makerbot)
Empire Fulton Ferry Park, Brooklyn, NY (Dumbo)
235 Bowery, NY (New Museum)
Union Square, NY (Subway Station 14th St)
540 West 21st Street, NY (Eyebeam)

But I’m super pysched, because according to @KelaniNichole, a dead drop just showed up in Philly across from Independence Hall in Old City.  There’s even an IPhone app so you can track Dead Drops in your own city.

We’ve put up a Dead Drops video on the front page of the site so you can see how Dead Drops are set up.

HAHA MAG Presents: Dutch Umbrella Episode 3

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HAHA Magazine asked Philly’s Dutch Umbrella Share Program if they would turn over some of their classic white umbrellas to local artists and have them use the umbrellas as a blank canvas. The results of which have been chronicled through The Dutch Umbrella Episodes.

Episode 3 takes us to Old Kensington, the neighborhood of Artist, Kat Karnaky.

Click here to find out more about our exciting Dutch Umbrella Project events.

HAHA MAG Presents: Dutch Umbrella Episode 2

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HAHA Magazine asked Philly’s Dutch Umbrella Share Program if they would turn over some of their classic white umbrellas to local artists and have them use the umbrellas as a blank canvas. The results of which have been chronicled through The Dutch Umbrella Episodes.

Episode 2 takes us into the studio with Artist, Brandon Dean.

Click here to find out more about our exciting Dutch Umbrella Project events.

HAHA MAG Presents: Dutch Umbrella Episode 1

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HAHA Magazine asked Philly’s Dutch Umbrella Share Program if they would turn over some of their classic white umbrellas to local artists and have them use the umbrellas as a blank canvas. The results of which have been chronicled through The Dutch Umbrella Episodes.

In our first episode we meet Philadelphia Artist, Yis Goodwin, otherwise known as ‘NoseGo’. His style mixes fine art with contemporary. His vibrant use of color and signature “monsters” have earned him spots in shows across the city.

Click here to find out more about our exciting Dutch Umbrella Project events.