I am so thrilled to introduce you to the first artist in this interview series: Chloe York. I first had the pleasure of seeing Chloe’s work a charity art auction that we were both participating in. I was immediately drawn to her piece; a small 10x10 canvas entitled “Microcosm II”. I was so captivated by the masterful use of pattern in her work as well as the contrast of her very scientific subject matter and playful, candied colors. Needless to say, I was captivated with her painting and it left the auction with me that night! Chloe was kind enough to answer a few questions for us about her work and practice:
How did your most recent body of work develop into what it is today?
CY: In many ways, my work hasn't changed much from what I created in high school and my early years in college. I've always used bright, cartoony candy colors and a flattened and dimensionless environment. My new work just utilizes those visuals better. I see more confident, clean line work and a better handling of composition and color usage than the work I've made in the past.
You've cited a "love of all things oceanic" in the past concerning your paintings. Where does this love stem from and how big of an influence does it have on your work?
CY: I had this ridiculously cool childhood where I lived in the Bahamas on one of the smaller islands for about a year while my family built a vacation home right on the beach. I think most of us romanticize the things that made us happy as children and that tropical beach environment is definitely that for me. I got to go snorkeling around big coral bodies and scoop starfish and hermit crabs out of the sand. I would tell people I was going to be a marine biologist when I grew up and go down in a sub to hunt for giant squids. So besides the obvious "I-grew-up-near-the-ocean" reasoning, everything in the sea is just rad! It's like this immense, frightening world full of vibrant colors and bizarre creatures. My "Decorator" series definitely draws tons of inspiration from the ocean, as they are about decorator crabs.
Your work is so incredibly ornate! Is the repetitive nature of the way you work meditative to you? Does it ever become tedious?
CY: It can definitely get tedious, especially if I'm working in one area and with one pattern for an extended period of time. The particular color I mixed sometimes dries up on me or my brush's strands get too bristly to create clean edges, but in the end, it's really fun to see what all those tiny areas build up to. I think the overabundance of information is what makes my paintings work so well.
Do you do a lot of planning (i.e.: sketching, color charts, pattern research) before you begin a piece or do you work more intuitively?
CY: I think it's a great idea to plan out your pieces beforehand, but sadly I don't really work that way. If I'm painting a portrait like a "Caddis" or "Decorator," I tone down the piece with a solid background and add a vague silhouette of a human head. After that, I map out where its facial features will go and then just proceed with the rest of it. Sometimes if I get stuck, I look up various plants, microscopic imagery, etc. and discover new shapes that are easy to replicate on a large scale. Reference materials come in handy for sure.
What medium do you work in and what are some of your "go-to" supplies-things you just couldn't make art without?
CY: I have to have acrylic paint. Anything with a heavier base that dries quickly since I do so much layering. My favorite brands are the cheap kind that go on flat; Amsterdam and Americana come to mind. Gesso is a must; it is an excellent base for thinner acrylics if you want lighter colors and it is necessary to use when priming raw canvas. I also could not live without my itty bitty brushes.
Run us through a studio session with you. What are some of your rituals and practices?
CY: I work from the guest bedroom in my little apartment. In that room, I have a storage nook set up for my finished paintings, a desk for writing and working on small paintings, and for everything else, I just set my canvas against a wall and sit on the floor to paint. Not ideal, but it works. I always have to have background noise, whether it's music or favorite movies or TV shows. I have my palette, an assortment of brushes, water cup, reference materials, and the colors I intend to use nearby. I can be pretty bad about not taking breaks and sometimes work so intently that I forget to eat!
What artist's work are you dying to get on your wall right now?
CY: There's so many! I have a pretty good collection right now, but I'd love another Alex Paulus. I'm also digging Maggie Russell, Tyler Hildebrand, and one of my all time loves, Misato Suzuki.
What would some of your dream projects/collaborations be?
CY: I just want to work bigger! It would be dreamy to have access to an endless supply of gigantic canvasses primed and ready to go. I'd love to work with other artists more, particularly ones with an aesthetic totally unlike my own. Recently, the sculptor and illustrator Eric Quick and I have been collaborating a series called XO that will be on display at Crosstown Arts one night only on July 18th.
Where can we find your work?
CY: Right now, I have work on display in the Cannon Center in downtown Memphis, the 477 Store in Memphis College of Art's Graduate Center, Allie Cat Arts in Cooper Young, Christian Nelius's Anno Domini show space inside Designer's Choice Interiors, and the Servicemaster by Stratos Headquarters. You can also find more of me and my work by visiting my website and following me on Instagram.