At Style.No.Chaser, we pride ourselves with uncovering and shining a much deserved light on artists that might otherwise fly under the mainstream radar. Jessica Chao is a cerebral artist that depicts psychological and message-laced subject matter with humor, whimsy and tact. Her art is very personal and her way of depicting subject matter (that is sometimes dark) with inviting bright colors is a very neat twist that really differentiates her from the pack. We believe that all artists need to be supported and encouraged to heighten and tighten their craft. However, when the work is as strong and unique as Jessica’s, encouragement and support come extremely easily.
Enjoy our interview with Jessica below …
“I wanted to convey the message about deforestation so I created a forest creature that is able to …”
Please tell us a little about yourself – where did you grow up, what did you like as a child, where you live now, your family, etc.?
I was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico and received my bachelors of fine arts at the University of New Mexico in 2012. Staying active in the art community, I have been constantly developing my artistic style and technique through various mediums. I like to explore all sorts of materials and challenge myself. I currently still live in Albuquerque, New Mexico. People have often asked why I don’t move, and I tell them that Albuquerque is very supportive of artists that are trying to become recognized like myself. When I was very little, probably around 4 years old, my hard-working parents owned a Chinese restaurant where my older brother and I hung out in the office and drew on the walls. Rather than scolding us, my parents seemed to embrace our artistic endeavors. This had always been the attitude my parents have had on my brother and me. My mom was really great about supplying me with crafts and drawing materials and would often help make things with me. I’m grateful for the fact that most of my childhood was spent either making arts and crafts or riding my hot pink Lion King bicycle with my friends.
When did you get involved in art and what does art mean to you?
When I was little, my mom and I would always do crafts around the house. Being frequently involved in creative activities made me realize at a young age that I wanted to be a “professional artist”. Friends my age all had dreams of becoming doctors or fire fighters, however, I wanted to pursue a career in the arts. It was not until high school art classes that I was able to distinguish the difference between “hobby” and “art with a purpose”. I developed a need to interpret my thoughts and ideas through artistic expression. This is why I feel art is important. It allows us to express our ideas and thoughts and translate them. We are able to share them with the rest of the world.
How do you describe your form of art and how did/do you develop it?
People have often described my work as hyper-realistic and dark although my color palette is bright and colorful and my subject matter is often fabricated. I like the use of inviting colors and details to encourage my audience to get really close to my paintings not just view them from a distance. For me, it’s not about texture, but it is about the details and how close I can make something look alive.
Your work has a real sense of humor and a whimsical lightness, what attracts you to this style?
Humor in art seems to be the most captivating effect for me and for my audience so I try and include it in my work. It is usually very mild and subtle so that it does not deter from the main message being conveyed. I like to use many colors and often choose animals as my subject. Last year in 2013, I painted an acrylic painting “Party Animal” (below) which is a great example of a piece that is both humorous and whimsical. It shows the aftermath of a rhinoceros that seemed to have crashed a party while it also shows how dejected and tired it has become as a result. I chose pastel colors for this piece and blurred the background to create a more dream-like landscape. I gravitate toward this style because in all the seriousness that comes with my art making process, I get really excited when I finish my painting; it is like being able to say the punch line.
What inspires you and your work and how do you pick subjects/themes for your work?
I enjoy developing concepts that involve narratives. Splicing animals with humans is one way to show a narrative. “Home Sweet Home” (below) is an oil painting I did in 2011. In this painting, a woman is kneeling down by a large tree and the forest that surrounds her leads to two vanishing trails on either side of her body. Although she is human in body, her head is a large male deer. I chose this to interpret dominance. The use of the human body also makes the subject more relatable. I wanted to convey the message about deforestation so I created a forest creature that is able to communicate with both wildlife and mankind. As for my portrait pieces, they are less narrative, and more open to interpretation. I try to capture the beauty of the subjects that are most often based on my friends that inspire me.
Which artists past or present do you look up to?
I truly admire an artist named Tiffany Bozic, who is a San Francisco based artist. She paints various species of animals and insects in really interesting scenarios some of which that are actual natural phenomena. After learning about her techniques with the use of watercolor and masking fluid on wood, it has helped me to appreciate process and preparation in my own paintings.
What do you intend to convey with your art?
My work deals with psychological states of being. I try and fabricate ideas that would otherwise only be dreamt. These illustrations of dreams can be very descriptive with notes of familiar objects or attributes, and other times they can be very subtle. My portraits are often females because in a way, they are different versions of me or they are characters that I wish I could become. I want the audience to question “who is she?” and “what is she like?” These are all questions that relate to certain emotions or psychological states of being.
What is the worst critique you have ever received about your work? What is the best compliment that you have received about your work?
The worst critique I’ve received was when I had an art opening and a woman told me that in one of my portrait paintings, the girl looked like she was drowning or she had been dead for several hours. I quickly discovered that she was drunk because she was so close to my face, her breath smelled of cheap booze. She further replied that if that painting were on the wall of her dining room, she would loose her appetite. I didn’t take any of it to heart since I knew she was obviously not coherent. She apologized, not for being drunk, but for sharing her opinion to me and walked off to kiss her friend goodbye…on the lips. The best compliment I’ve received so far was when a former colleague stopped me in passing and complimented that the current solo show I had was the best art show she had seen in a long time. I really appreciated that she took the time to stop and tell me.
Since Style.No.Chaser is a men’s lifestyle magazine, what attributes/items/clothing /etc. do you think defines a man?
I believe it is important to make a lasting first impression and to be able to present yourself in a way that shows your wellbeing. I certainly don’t think I have a say in what defines a man; however, a man defines himself by how he presents himself and to whom it matters.
What is the one thing you want people to know about you?
I work really hard at what I do. It is really difficult for artists like myself who are in a spot between the so-called “emerging” and “established” artists because I see us as all the same. I don’t define myself as an “emerging” artist nor can I call myself an “established” artist. I am a professional at what I do because I take it seriously, but I don’t think that I am at a level higher or below any other artist that lives and surrounds me in this day and age.
How can people learn more about your current and upcoming works/projects/exhibits?
The best way to be up-to-date with my work is my website – here you can view my works of art categorized into specific mediums as well as upcoming shows and events. People can also visit my Facebook Artist Page.
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