Today we’d like to introduce you to Chelsea Dean.
Chelsea, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
Although I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, the desert never felt like home. Strip malls, apartment buildings, and concrete surrounded me on all sides, making me long for nature and open space. Fortunately, I spent many weekends traveling by car with my father through parts of Northern Arizona and New Mexico where he would buy and trade Native American jewelry and goods. These experiences left a lasting impression, and I attribute my love of pattern and design to my time spent surrounded by Navajo rugs, Zuni needlepoint jewelry, and Hopi overlay designs. The place that quickly became my sanctuary along these journeys was Sedona, Arizona. There, I spent hours exploring, wading in the water, and building forts along Oak Creek Canyon. One of my favorite places to hike was the West Fork, and it was there that I encountered the architectural ruins of a burned down lodge that was originally constructed around 1870. I was drawn to the overgrown remnants of fireplaces and stone walls and left wanting to know more about the stories of those who had been there before me. This fascination with piecing together the past resonated with me and instilled a desire to investigate spaces in transition.
When I moved to Southern California in 2003 to attend grad school, the idea of desert took on a whole new meaning. I started rock climbing and I found myself frequenting Joshua Tree National Park to hike, camp, relax and explore. It was easy to be seduced by the landscape and all of its wonders. However, I was not expecting to be totally enamored by the abandoned and deteriorating shacks scattered across the desert floor. After visiting Wonder Valley several times to research the location of an upcoming show in 2014, I was captivated by the sad and mysterious structures dotting the 62 Highway. I became infatuated with researching and documenting these abandoned homesteads and began gathering relics from the various sites I encountered. Several years later, I am still peeling back the layers of history that these unique spaces have to offer.
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
I’m not an artist that fits neatly into one box. My work often combines a variety of mediums such as collage, printmaking, drawing, painting, photography and found objects. Although I don’t identify as a photographer, photography is at the root of my process. I work solely from my own photographs to control capturing specific angles, lighting, and subjects. I then use these images as references for drawings, prints, or as hand-cut subjects within my finished pieces. While a large part of my process is very structured, I enjoy working with printmaking and painting processes that are less predictable. The erratic backgrounds that I produce offer a nice balance to the order found in the architectural elements I incorporate.
For the past four years, I have been combing the Mojave Desert, wandering in and out of abandoned Jackrabbit Homesteads taking pictures and collecting artifacts. These remnants have served as reminders that someone used to occupy these once hopeful spaces. It’s here that I find myself drawn to the multitude of textures, colors, and patterns that live within the detritus. When reconstructing or re-imagining these spaces in my work, I assign new meaning and value with the addition of gold elements and embellished patterns. To heighten the precarious nature of my subjects, I often play with creating points of tension within my compositions. More recently, I have been experimenting with abstracting the photographic elements of the homesteads even further, and I have also been working on creating sculptures using larger found objects. I look forward to seeing what comes next.
The stereotype of a starving artist scares away many potentially talented artists from pursuing art – any advice or thoughts about how to deal with the financial concerns an aspiring artist might be concerned about?
I joke that I will be paying off my student loans for the rest of my life, but I don’t regret my decision to put myself through school. For better or worse, the art world (and life, in general) is a hustle, and the sooner you realize it and embrace it, the better. Finding and cultivating your community is key to developing a support system that will undoubtedly help create more opportunities for you. I am a huge fan of bartering and sharing resources with others, especially when funds are tight. There are so many avenues other than just galleries to pursue now to gain exposure and generate sales. I think it’s worth exploring all of your options and doing whatever you need to survive. That might mean trading work for services/goods, having a studio/art sale to generate extra money, or hosting a workshop at a community space or even your home to share a particular skill. As artists, we have to get creative and think outside the box. Ultimately, if making art is important to you, do it whenever and wherever you can — on your kitchen table, in between classes, or after your kids have gone to bed.
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
I currently have a lithograph on display at SoLA Gallery in Los Angeles as part of the “B.A.T. State II” exhibition which features contemporary printmaking by 35 female artists who have collaborated with El Nopal Press. The show is up through February 9th. I also have a 2-person show with Osceola Refetoff titled “Paradox California” coming up at LAUNCH LA. That exhibition opens on Saturday, February 23rd from 6-9 pm and will be up through March 23rd. My studio is at Keystone Art Space in Lincoln Heights where we host two, big open studio events each year. Feel free to sign up for my mailing list through my website to get more information about upcoming events and projects, or follow me on Instagram (@minifunk).
- Website: www.chelseadean.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @minifunk
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChelseaDeanArt/
Chelsea Dean, Mark Harvey, Devon Tsuno, Melanie Mandl