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F5: Artist Elizabeth Chapin Shares a Kitchen Staple, Favorite Podcasts + More

11.19.21 | By
F5: Artist Elizabeth Chapin Shares a Kitchen Staple, Favorite Podcasts + More
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light-skinned woman with blonde hair and dark framed glasses in an art studio

Contemporary American portrait artist Elizabeth Chapin, based in Austin, Texas, creates mixed media work that explores and deconstructs the ideas of nostalgia, gender roles, and the status quo. Born in Jackson, MS, Chapin received her BFA at the University of Virginia and has also studied at The Parson School of Design in Paris. Chapin’s work, created through an anthropological lens, has been exhibited across the United States, Stops include New York, NY; Austin, TX; New Orleans, LA; Nashville, TN; and Jackson, MS, among others. In 2020, she was awarded a residency in Florence, Italy, through Feminist Art Collective Toronto. Chapin’s work has also been featured on platforms such as Whitewall, Forbes Magazine, Luxe Magazine, ArtDaily, Artsy, The Vale Magazine, The English Room, Tribeza, Glasstire, Sightlines, Aether Magazine, and The Good Word.

Today Elizabeth is joining us for Friday Five!

colorful mixed media art of nude women

1. Art

Online and especially in person. Looking at art on Instagram is a sustaining, frequently inadequate, yet necessary daily diet, holding me over to the times when I can see art in person. This summer, I drove down to the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston to see the work of Jessi Reaves and Elizabeth Murray, a pair of contemporary artists whose blurring of the definition of painting and sculpture and whose use of textile, has been an inspiration to me. In June, I walked into the Morgan Library in NYC to a show of Hockney figure drawings, whose lines, simultaneously efficient and sensuous, made me breathless. And then, to see Alice Neel at the Met! Her fluidity is more about unrestrained, visceral raw expression and the life force of a body. Juxtapose that with the Medici exhibit, also at the Met, of lusciously painted and deeply psychological Bronzinos and the color mannerist bombs of Pontormo. I was happy to travel virtually to the lush and haunting archetypal re-imaginings of Jean-Marie Appriou at Galerie Eva Presenhuber in Zurich, the humorous glow of Tony Oursler’s projection work at the Kaohsiung Musuem of Fine Arts in Taiwan, and the immersive feminist fantasies of Laure Prouvost at the Kunsthal Charlottenborg and the Louisiana Museum in Denmark. All of these artists speak to me about what it means to be a spirit bound up in a body, which is what I like to think about.

iPhone with with Spotify open next to a pair of headphones

2. Music + Podcasts

I paint to music, which helps me shut off my mind and trust the paint itself. When I am working on the sewing and technical components of my work, I listen to podcasts. Music and podcasts (and books! And poetry!) are the engines that keep me going. Some music I am listening to right now: Biig Piig, James Blake, Caroline Polachek, Arca, and Connan Mockasin. My favorite podcasts at the moment are comedian Jessa Reed’s Awakening OD (50 years of therapy in a few hours – def not for the skeptic or faint of heart), Rich Roll, and Russell Brand’s Under the Skin. My last show in New Orleans was inspired by Rich Roll’s conversation with Cal Newport on the neurological/spiritual cost of social media, particularly for young women. Since I’ve been getting into adding smell to my paintings, I have enjoyed the podcast Perfume on the Radio led by the Institute for Art and Olfaction. I frequently revisit David Chang’s interview with Jerry Saltz or Krista Tippett’s conversation with John O’Donohue whenever I need a booster shot. My daughter just introduced me to Dissect, a nerdy, thorough, and satisfying analysis of music, in particular Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Kendrick Lamar’s Damn.

four pairs of paint covered overalls hanging on a clothesline

3. Overalls

My uniform – either Carhartt or Dickies. I go through about a pair a year, and they, themselves, turn into Joan Mitchellish layering. I used to pitch them when the ass wore out, but recently realized that was a little tragic. They now hang from my old wood easel, which I have also outgrown.

three nested case iron pans with two eggs sunny side up

4. Cast Iron Skillets

I inherited my grandmother’s cast iron. Nothing like a well-seasoned cast iron skillet for a good sear, a spatchcock, a fried egg, an apple dutch baby, a pineapple upside down cake, a potato dauphinoise, or tarte tatin.  They live on my stove top. I never put them away.

sewing machine on desk in front of a collaged wall

5. Thor Industrial Walking Foot Sewing Machine

A few years ago, I started cutting my paintings off the stretchers and sewing them into dimensional freestanding forms. They became paintings that were soft and unruly, that could be caressed, manipulated, wrangled, and hurt — not just representing bodies, but interrupting psyche and space like a body. I sometimes light them from within, add smells to their interiors, and incorporate other media (plexiglass, fabrics, trims, and projection). I quickly learned that my old sewing machine could not handle this kind of work. I bought this Thor industrial machine (designed for leather and whose foot “walks”) that allows me to stitch giant painted surfaces together. And he is well named.

Work by Elizabeth Chapin:

mixed media art of a woman sitting down with a body cradled in her arms

p1eta™, 2020, mixed media \ Banishment of Solitude is a series of work that deconstructs crafted identities and online personas. The archetypes referenced in the work serve as a symbol to depict the performative quality of life and a culture of disconnect, judgement, and solitude. Viewing the contemporary through a historical framework of ancient female deism to Greek and Biblical mythology, The series explores themes of exile and isolation — the punitive conditions that have been assigned to women from Eve in Eden to The Birth of Venus to today’s Instagram models. Chapin noticed her own addiction to social media, and the anxiety felt amongst her daughter and her daughter’s friends around creating and maintaining an idealized social media self. The Banishment of Solitude was inspired by these performative myths, which like historical mythology, become an unconscious playbook of the stories young women tell themselves and each other. They are often creating a warped and disembodied reality, while simultaneously distancing themselves from the antidote of real and sustained action and a nonreactive mind.

colorful mixed media art

Apple Eater, acrylic on dimensional canvas, dyed silk charmeuse, metallic silk tissue, steel, led lights, 108 x 60 x 50 inches, 2020

Kelly Beall is senior editor at Design Milk. The Pittsburgh-based graphic designer and writer has had a deep love of art and design for as long as she can remember, and enjoys sharing her finds with others. When undistracted by great art and design, she can be found making a mess in the kitchen, consuming as much information as possible, or on the couch with her three pets. Find her @designcrush on social.