OLIVIER ZAHM — So, you’re based in Philadelphia. How do you see New York, compared with Philadelphia?
JONATHAN LYNDON CHASE — New York, for me, is a place where magic and wonder happen. It’s very high-paced, lots of action, and it never sleeps. There’s always some- where to go, someone to see. It’s a lot of energy.
OLIVIER ZAHM — It can be exhausting.
JONATHAN LYNDON CHASE — Yes, and I like to be as transparent as possible. I’m a bit on the softer side, so it makes sense for us to reside in Philly. It’s a two-hour drive, and we go back and forth. New York is like an extension to our Philly family. And all of the art that’s here, and the fashion in particular… Like, in Philly, we have our own style, right?
OLIVIER ZAHM — What’s the style like in Philadelphia?
JONATHAN LYNDON CHASE — It’s very casual, but kind of elevated gym wear. Lots of sweatpants, but with a street-chic style. I feel we can breathe a little easier as queer people in New York, though, to be honest.
OLIVIER ZAHM — There’s a long tradition of welcoming trans and gay artists in New York. And that’s the beauty of the city — to have this openness.
JONATHAN LYNDON CHASE — Yes, and you can definitely feel the arty energy of the ancestors and the elders who are here.
OLIVIER ZAHM — The trans and queer community is bigger in New York. Do you feel safer in New York than in Philadelphia?
JONATHAN LYNDON CHASE — It’s okay in Philadelphia. We have a really amazing night-life. There are lots of programs for gay people. We have the William Way Community Center, the Mazzoni Center for health and support. But fashion in New York is a different situation. I wouldn’t compare them, as in one is better than the other — it’s just that they are different.
OLIVIER ZAHM — You’re not thinking of moving to New York?
JONATHAN LYNDON CHASE — No. I don’t think we’re cut out to actually live here. And Philly’s way less expensive. We’re fortunate to have found a beautiful studio space. We live in the Mount Airy section of the city. Our studio is about a 20-minute drive away. It’s an old factory building that they’ve transformed into community studios. They do outreach. It’s really great. We have two rental spaces, beautiful light. It’s affordable, and there’s space — that’s always a plus.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Are there any artists who inspired you — from New York or elsewhere in America?
JONATHAN LYNDON CHASE — Alice Neel and Romare Bearden, who I think was from New York. But yeah, Romare Bearden — the collaged, fragmented aspects were really attractive to me because I hadn’t seen collage done with those pictorial elements so developed.
OLIVIER ZAHM — In your paintings, you mix a lot of elements — not only oil, but also pigment. What do you use to create these bright colors? They’re cosmetic, in a way.
JONATHAN LYNDON CHASE — Yeah. I mostly use acrylic, but I also use oil paint. For the show that’s now up, a lot of them are painted on muslin, a fabric with many uses. People used it for diapers, stage sets, curtains, and even sails for boats. And it comes in different weights. But also canvas or satin because they relate to certain ideas I’m talking about in relationship to the body. If I just soak canvas surfaces, it’s more about the surface, but with the muslin, it’s really about soaking and embedding into it. Someone else I’m a fan of is Joan Mitchell.
OLIVIER ZAHM — So, you paint, you add music, and you also do installations. And this show was about making a harbor. Where did that idea come from?
JONATHAN LYNDON CHASE — It started with an idea of loss or mystery, which brought me to the title of the show, “FOG.” The show is, in part, personal for me, apart from the historical and popular culture references, or Western art depictions of African Americans, Black people in the Navy. The personal element is that my father was in the Navy. He joined when he was 17 and was in the Korean War. When he met my mom — my mom’s still with us — he was way older than her. They got married and were together for some time before they had me. Unfortunately, he died a few months after I was born. So, there are elements of thinking about masculinity, my lineage, a whole part of myself that I have a foggy connection to. The New York World Building interested me in my work, which comes with the installations, the drawings, and the paintings. I’m interested in sensory out- puts. I was also thinking about the beach and the water. Water’s a reoccurring motif — fog, weather… I was really fortunate to do a residency on Fire Island.
OLIVIER ZAHM — A residency? Was it vacation or real work?
JONATHAN LYNDON CHASE — It was like vacation-work. I just can’t help myself — it’s re- ally therapeutic for me. Aside from the fantasy aspects of the mermaids and thinking about nonbinary bodies, I was really interested in trying to talk about gay Black people in the military, specifically in the Navy.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Because being gay in the army is still a problem.
JONATHAN LYNDON CHASE — It is.
OLIVIER ZAHM — What’s that saying?
JONATHAN LYNDON CHASE — “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”
OLIVIER ZAHM — There’s also a big inflated anchor in the show, a sculpture.
JONATHAN LYNDON CHASE — It’s actually Styrofoam. Lots of tiny little beads, almost like sand. That was really fun to put together.
OLIVIER ZAHM — So, when was this residency on Fire Island?
JONATHAN LYNDON CHASE — It was last September, for three weeks. It was beautiful. It’s like you’re in an- other world, but it’s a utopia. It’s really relaxing. My takeaway from it was my relationship to nature, and removing my body from being surrounded by concrete all the fucking time, and then being near the beach and the bamboo and the quiet. It was fantastic just to look at the water and study it, collect stuff off the beach, move with the community, get to meet new people.
OLIVIER ZAHM — You’re still a young artist. You’ve been working professionally for 10 years?
JONATHAN LYNDON CHASE — Oh, gosh, it feels like it. I guess whatever “professionally” means? Yeah, I’ve been doing it for a while. But the sort of rocket takeoff moment, I would say, was between 2018 and 2020 — that’s probably when I feel like I was gaining lots of momentum.
OLIVIER ZAHM — And how do you see the evolution of your work, since the beginning?
JONATHAN LYNDON CHASE — I’m exploring my gender identity more… I came out as non-binary a few years ago. Everyone has coming-out stages in their life, whether it’s the 30th or 40th landmark. Exploring myself makes me think of my work in more complex ways and in different mediums. I want to try to do a film one day. I’m really interested in video games, my writing practice…
OLIVIER ZAHM — So, you’re open to any medium.
JONATHAN LYNDON CHASE — What’s the limit? Let’s try different things.
OLIVIER ZAHM — And how does your non-binary identity inform your work? Because this community has really transformed aesthetics in an interesting way — and it comes from these new possibilities.
JONATHAN LYNDON CHASE — I think through abstraction, and being as much of your fucking self as possible, unapologetically. That definitely gives me more confidence to be, like: “This is it. Here I am at this moment. I’m liminal, I’m always changing.” That in and of itself is humans’ relation ship to change. Humans have to know how to change in order to live, to be healthy, to progress. And you can’t resist change. When we see a pattern of people trying to resist that, it doesn’t look so good.
[Table of contents]
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