Today we’d like to introduce you to Chuka Susan Chesney.
Chuka Susan, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I started making art when I was a very young child, before I can remember. My sister was my teacher, and my dad provided art supplies. We worked at our formica kitchen table, so we couldn’t make a mess. I graduated from Art Center College of Design in 1983 with a Fashion Illustration degree.
My husband and I had two children and we took over my father’s printing and graphics company, so for many years, I hardly drew or painted. When my daughter went off to college, I started making collages and paintings again. For the past several years, I have dedicated myself to art and writing. My paintings have been in exhibitions all over the country including at Harvard University, the University of West Virginia, Brand Gallery, Gallery 825, Tag Gallery, and Orange County Center for Contemporary Art. I have received several awards including third prize at the California Open.
Now I am becoming interested in curating shows and editing books of poetry and art. One of my books has been sent to a publisher, and I am waiting to hear from him. I am going to help curate a show at Hive Gallery in October along with Christie Shinn and Nathan Cartwright.
Can you give our readers some background on your art?
I paint lots of things and make mixed media and collages. One of my favorite subjects is a photograph of Marilyn Monroe that Bert Stern took for Vogue Magazine. I have painted the pose over 100 times. It really inspires me because Marilyn’s expression in the photo reminds me of my mother. When I was three months old, my mother Helen suffered from postpartum depression. She had to leave our family and go to Camarillo Mental Hospital for many months. From the time I was born until I was two years old, a 15-year-old girl named Estela from a village in Mexico took care of me. I am still in touch with her. She told me that my mother used to place her folded arm against the wall and lean her head against her arm. Then she would growl and moan. I remember when I was little, my mom often wore a negligee in the morning. She always had a fancy hair-do.
I have made Marilyn happy, sad, angry, the seat of a bicycle, visiting The Four Corners, superimposed over The Munster’s car with Donald, Melania, and Ivanka riding in the car. I have created Marilyn small, medium, and large, and I’ve had two one person shows with the theme of Marilyn. I don’t know when I will stop painting Marilyn. Today I painted her with a tattoo of Edgar Allan Poe on one arm and a raven on the other arm. I wrote the first verse of Poe’s “The Raven” all around the painting.
What would you recommend to an artist new to the city, or to art, in terms of meeting and connecting with other artists and creatives?
I belong to two wonderful Southern California art groups: Pasadena Society of Artists and Women Painters West. I used to belong to Los Angeles Art Association. I met a fabulous and very funny artist named Christie Shinn in a crit group from LAAA, and she was the one who helped me get into Hive Gallery.
I am also a published poet. Almost every Saturday, I attend Saturday Afternoon Poetry at the Santa Catalina Library in Pasadena. I think it is good for artists to have a second creative practice. When I get tired of making art, I write. Then I am inspired to paint, and then I write again! My poems and/or artwork have been published in several literary journals and chapbooks including The New England Review, Compose Literary Journal, Peacock Journal, Inklette, and Claudius Speaks.
What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
My work is shown throughout the year at The Hive Gallery in Downtown L.A. and at Aarnun Gallery in Pasadena. People can get in touch with me on Facebook or through my email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Website: http://www.aarnungallery.com/portfolio/susan-chesney/
- Phone: 818-519-5774
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: chukasusanchesney
- Facebook: Chuka Susan Chesney
All of the paintings are by me. “Coffee with Jesus” was published in Peacock Journal.