Q & A with artist Taylor Chapin
What are you currently reading, listening to or looking at to fuel your work?
I’ve been looking at the work of Lucy Sparrow a lot. I’m really intrigued by her use of repetition and color as well as her installation work. I am inspired by how she has re-imagined branding and products through her own style and material. I’ve also been looking at the work of Jean Lowe. Her way of incorporating humor, both subtle and overt, has a lot of influence on my work. I also really like the painting styles of both Anna Valdez and Chloe Wise. While each artist’s work is very different, I am very attracted to the rich color and painterly style of both artists as well as their incorporation of kitsch and autobiographical content. I have been reading The Story of Art by E.H. Gombrich to brush up on my art history as well at to better understand my place as an artist in our current day and age. I’ve also been reading the work of Robert Johnson which explores Jungian psychology. I’ve been thinking about Jungian psychology more in relation to my portraiture and how I can perceive people on a more psychological level through paint.
What are your biggest challenges to creating art and how do you deal with them? How do you navigate the art world?
I often find myself pulled in so many directions as a young, emerging artist. It’s easy for me to feel overwhelmed by the amount of feedback and opinions I receive on what I should be doing and how I should be doing it. I am at a point in my career where I have to wear a lot of different hats to make ends meet. I struggle with balancing commissions, feedback from others, and making my own work. Creating my own work is a priority, and this requires a consistent awareness of allocating time. I often feel pressure to please others and to “paint what sells”, and I have to make an active effort to avoid falling into this trap and make sure my own practice is truly and honestly expressing my own interests and desires.
I feel like I’m just starting to learn how to navigate the art world. I am on the front end of my career, so I feel like first and foremost, I am trying to get exposure for my work. This being the case, right now I say yes to every opportunity that comes my way because each opportunity is a chance to learn and share my work with others. I find that through each experience into the various offerings of the art world, I learn a little bit more about how I want to navigate the art world going forward.
What mediums do you work with? How would you describe your subject matter?
I primarily paint on canvas in both oil and acrylic. I would describe my subject matter as reimagined instances of everyday life expressed through people and objects interacting with one another. I paint a lot of grocery stores both focus on branding and advertising of various products as well as seemingly mundane scenes of grocery shopping. My work emphasizes pattern, light, reflection, and repetition. I explore kitsch, consumerism, euphemisms and voyeuristic separation to suggest the inherent comedy, and absurdity, of daily life. Even incidental moments can hold incredible meaning and beauty. My work highlights and honors the significance of the current moment while often poking fun at how ridiculous it can be.
When people ask you what you “do”, how do you answer?
I answer that I am an artist. I’m a painter. I mostly deal with painting daily life and incorporating the people I know into my work. I like getting to know the people closest to me better through paint. I have been doing a lot of grocery store paintings that play with branding and advertising and scenes of people shopping. I’m super interested in how light, color, and pattern can make a seemingly boring scene come to life.
Describe a childhood memory that has influenced your artwork.
I am an only child, so growing up I spent a lot of time alone finding different ways to entertain myself. I have always been drawn to creating art since I was young, and a good portion of my time as a kid was spent painting and drawing. At a young age, I got really into meticulously recreating Lisa Frank designs. I think this was the beginning of my fascination with detail and color.
My dog also occupied a great deal of my time growing up. I would dress up my dog up and take pictures of him in different themed outfits that corresponded to different months. I would print out DIY calendars and give them to my family at Christmas. I dreamt that one day my calendars would sell at Barnes & Noble. Since then, I have become partial to cats, and I prefer painting to photography.
Has there been a shift or change in your life or work that has led to what you’re making now? Do you see your work as autobiographical at all?
The root of my work has remained the same. However, since I graduated from undergrad in 2016, I’ve noticed that I have become more prolific as well as more focused in on certain subject matter. I have had a good deal of time working without the structure of academia, and I believe it has helped me hone in on what I’m truly interested in as well as given me the time and space to develop my own language. Taking a leap away from strict representation and creating my own painting language and unique style is extremely important in my practice right now. I still work from life and from photographs; however, my style has become a lot more imaginative. My content and use of paint has become much more creative and expressive.
I often see my work as autobiographical. While it may not seem autobiographical at times, I am almost always translating my own experiences and interactions with the outside world into my subject matter. The moments, people, and objects I choose to represent are directly drawn from my own life. I also feel like my painting style is a way of expressing my personality through two dimensional creations.
What is your personal message to your artwork and how does that connect to a communal and universal message?
I see my work as my own critique of American consumer culture. We live in an age of over-exposure. We are endlessly inundated with images and content. I think my work highlights this while also acting against it. My paintings accentuate this feeling of overwhelm in our modern world as well as quietly critiquing the effectiveness of branding and advertising. Adversely, the act of looking at a painting and creating a painting causes time and attention to slow down in a way we are no longer used to and can come as a nice relief. I believe this message is both personal and universal. A lot of the themes I explore can be easily recognized by others, and while the particular scenes are unique to my experience, this exploration of the mundane and the routine can be a relatable experience for others both through content and mood. I would like my work to be seen as quiet but critical exploration of our current consumer culture and how we as consumers are almost forced into choosing and consuming.
I think one of the reasons I am attracted to painting various everyday products is because I am interested in these products’ metaphorical value as social equalizers. People from all walks of life often have some sort of personal connection to the various food products I represent in paint. Many grocery-stores and food products are inherently american and often relatable across class lines. While “fine art” may often feel pretentious at times, I want these grocery store paintings to make people feel comfortable and invited into the art as opposed to feeling inaccessible and academic.
Do you intend your work to challenge the viewer?
My work is intended to subtly challenge the viewer. I want my work initially to draw in the viewer with bright colors, playful themes, and recognizable brands and objects. Beyond this initial attraction to the work, I want to conjure up more critical ideas about advertising and consumer culture, specifically the american consumer. I intend for my work to comment on the inundation of choices we are presented with in our modern world and to think more in depth about the subliminal effects of advertising and how much power we really have as individuals about what we choose to purchase and who/what is manipulating our shopping habits.
I also intend for my work to lovingly comment on the routines of the everyday. I like to place a great deal of attention and detail on our everyday interaction. In this way, I seek to honor and appreciate the daily ins and out of our existence. While the daily routine can be tedious at time, I feel it deserves recognition and respect.
Is the creative impulse driven by a personal need to ease pain and/or satiate desire?
My creative impulse is driven by a need to satiate desire and alleviate anxiety. I feel anxious and unfulfilled if I am not constantly creating. If given the opportunity, I believe one of most important and uniquely human things is to create things that will live beyond and outside of yourself. I feel fortunate enough to try and fulfill this goal through painting. My mind is constantly racing and I often feel as I’m not doing enough, painting helps me alleviate these feelings and feel grounded and productive, albeit temporarily.
What three things never fail to bring you pleasure?
-Eating/cooking a good meal
-Being alone in the studio painting and listening to podcasts/music
-Finishing a painting and being satisfied with the finished piece
Whats your motto?
Live and create with honesty and integrity about who you are.