We were so thrilled to be able to use Rebecca Chaperon’s artwork “Lady of the Pink Lake” as our cover image for Issue 4! Kia sat down with Rebecca to talk art, process, and inspiration.
Breaking news! If you’re at AWP in Minneapolis this weekend, we’ll be raffling off a limited edition print of Rebecca’s work at tonight’s launch party! Come by table 856 at the bookfair to buy tickets and find out the address to the seekret location! Can’t make the launch? No problem! Leave us your email and we’ll let you know if you’ve won!
If you don’t want to tempt fate, you can purchase one of Rebecca’s beautiful prints directly from her website: thechaperon.ca.
KG: How did you come to visual art? What inspired you to start painting?
RC: I think that I’ve always been a very visual person. Being pretty introverted from a young age my energy went into observation, I loved reading and spent alot of time “in my own head”. I think that visual art was a natural way for me to express myself. I also found looking at art so stimulating – it has an immediate affect on me – I wanted to be a part of that world, creating images that might move people.
KG: Who are your influences?
RC: Too many to name, I am constantly looking at art! I love the surrealists and expressionists. I’m constantly finding new artists to admire – new and old. When I discovered Remedios Varos, a female surrealist painter, I was in love. I couldn’t believe that I had covered surrealism in art history class and never learned about her. It’s sad that so many prolific female artists aren’t taught about.
KG: There’s a kind of fantastical quality to your paintings, particularly in the Eccentric Gardens and Antarticus series—landscapes take on a candy-colored, ethereally feminine appearance, and spooky black holes open up, revealing ghostly limbs. What’s the story behind these two collections? Do you have a narrative in mind while you’re conceptualizing and painting these images?
RC: An authentic answer to your question is that I often started with just inventing the place – then asking myself what belongs there. So I build a narrative while working through the process of painting. In the end I feel like I’ve told myself a story that I had no way of knowing before I started the painting. With the portals or “spooky black holes” I wanted to create a doorway into this space for the viewer. Aesthetically I am balancing, the candy sweet world, ephemeral and unearthly with the weighty-ness of the flat black geometry. These portals are strongly central and really can draw you into the painting and out of your surrounding real space…like a meditation.
KG: To what degree has your gender identity shaped your work, and your career? How do you feel women fit into the art world? Is gender a concern for you?
RC: Gender is a concern to me. It’s hard to express how finding female role models in the art has shifted my own perspective but it has. In a way that, for me, is hard to explain connecting with strong female artists has helped me in a different way than connecting with my male artist role models.
RC: What a great question – I think that I am certainly under the influence of this type of visual messaging, on some levels I am probably engaging in this when choosing the text. I am a Tumblr fanatic and there is a great deal of use of this type of visual language there. In the case of the pieces you mentioned I actually worked with a poet. I am a big poetry fan though not that up to date with current poets. I had worked with Hannah Stephenson aka The Storialist before and since then I had been keeping up with her writing and I noticed that some her poetry had parallel imagery to my art. She agreed to let me pull some excerpts from her poems and I deliberately chose statement using “I” or “you” because I wanted to use these works to communicate directly to the viewer. “I became an inside” is a statement that communicates a level of intimacy with the viewer about my state of being. The division between myself and the viewer gets crossed because the intimate statement might provoke the viewer to ask themselves “Have I ever become an inside and what does that mean?” and so a relationship can evolve between myself and the people looking at my art.
KG: Can you tell us a little about the creation of “Lady of the Pink Lake”? What’s your process like, when you’re working on a piece?
RC: This piece was a joy to create – I kind of said to myself “Ok Rebecca, go all out! Be as weird as you want to be!” a self-coaching technique that has helped me refresh my practice and keep me authentic to myself. I new I wanted to create a cave piece as a sister piece to another painting I had made in 2011. So Lady of the Pink Lake is a sister piece to Hyperbole – a painting that I made where a woman is depicted extending her arms into a dark cave. Please see this link: http://thechaperon.ca/images/hyperbole and a detail from the painting here: http://thechaperon.ca/images/hyperbole-detail . I wanted to depict the arms extending out into a parallel world. One that was as light as the other was dark – one that the figure can’t see but can reach into. I love existential themes so this really tickled my fancy.
KG: Who are some of your favorite female authors?
RC: Daphne du Maurier, Katherine Dunn, Ursala K Leguin, Amber Dawn, Jane Eyre, Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood, Charlotte Bronte, Susan Musgrave and Adrienne Matei. I am sure that I am forgetting some. Please check out the recent collaboration I did with Adrienne Matei. She created a piece of writing inspired by one of my paintings and I created a painting based on one of her short stories. I love her writing so much and I am really proud of our project called Trip, you can see it here: http://adriennematei.com/Trips
Kia Groom is founding editor of Quaint Magazine, and an MFA candidate at the University of New Orleans, where she works also as associate poetry editor for Bayou Magazine. Her work has been published in Curbside Splendor, Westerly, Cordite, and Going Down Swinging, and has been shortlisted for several awards including the Judith Wright Poetry Prize. She can be found online atkiagroom.com, and tweets @whodreamedit.