paradise lost and paradise regained
portrait by REBEKAH CAMPBELL
interview by JEROME SANS
JÉRÔME SANS — In less than three years, you skyrocketed in the contemporary art scene. How do you feel about this?
CHLOE WISE — Actually, I think it’s maybe four years now.
JÉRÔME SANS — Why do you focus so much on portraits?
CHLOE WISE — I grew up always drawing portraits, on my school papers, on napkins, all the time. I don’t know why, it was just always my primary interest. My mom and I used to sit and draw each other’s portrait in crayon on the paper tablecloth at Pizza Hut when I was really little. In school, I also focused on portraiture and was enamored with the work of historic painters like John Singer Sargent, John William Waterhouse, Rembrandt, Edouard Manet, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and then Alice Neel, Andy Warhol, David Hockney, Elizabeth Peyton, John Currin, etc. I don’t think we will ever grow sick of the portrait, as we are constantly face-to-face with other humans in our experience.
JÉRÔME SANS — How do you choose woman you paint? Is it a portrait of your generation?
CHLOE WISE — I paint my friends, charismatic women or female-identifying people who challenge the standards of the status quo in multiple ways.
JÉRÔME SANS — Do you think that everything has the same value now and that we live with global consumerism?
CHLOE WISE — We are definitely participating in a commodified landscape, where everything, even our “individuality,” can be packaged and sold back to us. Advertising targets our most vulnerable desires and fears in order to sell a product, and we sort of fold that back into our perception of the world and our negotiation of reality. So, for me, it’s important to utilize that same sensibility, or visual language, when I’m making a composition.
JÉRÔME SANS — What does it mean for you to be a painter today?
CHLOE WISE — I’m not sure. I just love to work with painting, and I have always loved the feeling of paint. I suppose in a time where we have access to every medium, one does not need to perfect the skill set or inhale the toxic materials needed for painting.
JÉRÔME SANS — What’s the link you want to make between women and food?
CHLOE WISE — The female body has been presented in the media, advertising, and fashion as a consumable product, ripe for the picking, so to speak, objectified, and presented on a platter, as though parallel to a fruit or a sundae. This is problematic imagery to me. The female body and food are treated like still lifes, they are synonymous. The still life is a sort of memento mori, a reminder of the fleeting nature of life — that the fruits you see will soon rot, decay, and perish, much like our human bodies, etc. So, my work is drawing that parallel, at once satirizing the way women are sexualized and affirming that same idea of the transience of life.
JÉRÔME SANS — Your works play continuously with the codes of fashion.
CHLOE WISE — I used brand logos, such as Chanel or Dior, to criticize their authority as a higher value. I satirized that phenomenon with my series of bread bags — which many of those brands then welcomed, embracing a criticism of themselves, which was very funny and cool! In that sense, the fashion industry is relevant.
JÉRÔME SANS — Some of your sculptures feature objects such as food and drinks, shown as leftover, trashed things arranged on a mirror. Do these works act as a metaphors for something you dislike?
CHLOE WISE — Food goes through a cycle: it begins as something desirable, enticing, delicious, and then what remains is a quite abject array of leftovers, which will then begin to rot or decay and eventually return to dust. Certainly this is a metaphor for human mutability. Pretty morbid, sorry!
JÉRÔME SANS — Your work reminds me of Pop artists from the ’60s — Claes Oldenburg, Tom Wesselmann, or Mel Ramos — but reaffirming the power of women.
CHLOE WISE — That’s a compliment. Tom Wesselmann, for sure. Carly Mark, Logan Jackson, Gina Beavers, Brad Troemel, Jillian Mayer, Tim and Eric, Jamian Juliano-Villani, and Alexander Kosolapov.
JÉRÔME SANS — Instagram seems to be part of your work, and you play with it regularly. You have more than 80,000 followers. How do your images on Instagram relate to your art?
CHLOE WISE — Not important. At the same time, it’s a natural part of millennial living, so it would be more unusual and important if I didn’t use it.
JÉRÔME SANS — Your work seems to evoke the aesthetic of a “new paradise.” Do you believe in paradise?
CHLOE WISE — I love the idea of paradise because it is so aspirational and unrealistic. I’m sure this image of paradise or these unrealistic aspirational images have been around for ages. It’s a human need — to think there is something to strive for.
JÉRÔME SANS — How do you choose the long titles of your exhibitions?
CHLOE WISE — All of my titles are taken from ongoing poems that I am constantly compiling from found words, overheard phrases, things I’ve misheard, and so on. I love the idea of a constant flow of almost anonymous chatter, much like Twitter, but taking that flow and consecrating it as poetry.
JÉRÔME SANS — How do you see the future?
CHLOE WISE — Unclear!