Interview: Chelsea Malia Brown
Luca Curci talks with Chelsea Malia Brown during THE BODY LANGUAGE 2020 at THE ROOM Contemporary Art Space.
I am a 29 year old artist and poet, based in Seattle, WA. I grew up on a llama farm, and living in isolated areas like central Oregon and Alaska as an only child gave me endless time to foster my imagination. My desire to be an artist has been something unshakable in my life. My most recent artwork and poetry are inspired by my struggle with chronic illness and the feeling of being out of control of my body, myself, and my connection to others. I often depict the female body in my work, and themes of vulnerability and fear, but ultimately empowerment. I type out my poems on my typewriter, and create my artwork with sumi ink, graphite, charcoal and acrylic paint, occasionally joining my artwork and poetry. I graduated with my Bachelor’s in Arts, Media and Culture from the University of Washington in Tacoma, WA. I have worked as the Studio Manager for Chihuly-trained internationally renowned glass artist Martin Blank, and as the Media Coordinator for the Bryan Ohno Art Gallery.
Luca Curci – What’s your background?
Chelsea Malia Brown – I have been drawing since I could hold a pen. I ruined a very nice leather chair creating my first picture as a kid, and told everyone that I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Art and a Minor in poetry. I worked in art galleries and studios in Seattle, Washington after college, but it was difficult to make a living, and the gallery owners and artists seemed dissatisfied with their lives. Everyone had a different dream for themselves. For a while, I lost hope in pursuing a career in the art world. I found comfort in the simplicity of concrete, black and white concepts, so accounting made sense to me. I thought it would satisfy a different part of me, but it left me empty. I still woke up with the desire to draw and write and no longer had the time or energy. When I started to put all my energy into my art, it felt like I was finally getting back to myself.
LC – What is the experience that has influenced your work the most?
CMB – Over the last few years, I have been struggling with several chronic illnesses. It took a long time to diagnose them and the symptoms were confusing and alarming. I have been in and out of doctor’s offices, having tests and treatments. The experience is hard to explain, and I often don’t want to try. It has isolated me from other people. My body no longer feels like my own, so my art and poetry have become an outlet for me. I draw and write about bodies to take back control of what I no longer have control over.
LC – What is art for you?
CMB – Art is a connection. It is a communication between people. It can be therapy for the artist or created for the viewer, or a soft or loud protest. I love the fact that art allows me to share something, and connect to another person. I hope other people dealing with similar experiences can take solace in my work, but I also love the freedom of not being able to control how someone receives my work.
LC – How is being an artist nowadays?
CMB – It is a challenge. There is an inherent instability in being an artist, but I know this has always been the artist’s dilemma. There is a respect for artists today that I didn’t feel when I was younger. I was discouraged growing up with my passion for art, because there was a lot of judgment around pursuing art as a career. When I tell people I am an artist now, people are excited and tell me to follow my dreams. It gives me hope.
LC – What is your creative process like?
CMB – My ideas can come to me anytime, so I like to jot them down to return to them later. Usually I let the concepts sit for a while before I start working with them. Sometimes an image will inspire a poem, or vice versa, or a poem or image will stand alone. I use my art and poetry to work through upsetting or challenging situations, so I like to take time after an event to write down how I am feeling.
LC – Are your artworks focused on a specific theme?
CMB – My most recent theme has been the female body, usually isolated with a stark white or black background, because I want it to feel unsettling. I don’t include faces, because there is immediate recognition when we see a face. We identify with faces, and see our friends or family, or someone we dislike. I want to focus only on the body. Other recurring themes like space represent the dichotomy between the chaos of humanity and the order often found in space. The moon will orbit the sun, and gravity will hold us to the ground, yet as humans no force exists to keep us together. The emptiness and desolation of space also contrasts with my plant life theme representing life, hope and promise.
LC – We were attracted by your last artistic production, has the artwork presented been created for the festival or as a part of preexisting works?
CMB – It was a mix of both. I completed some of my pieces for this exhibition; others had already been completed. Because my current personal theme was in line with the theme of the exhibition, I already had a finished body of work but was inspired to create more.
LC – What do you think about the concept of this festival? In which way did it inspire you?
CMB – I love the concept of “The Body Language” Exhibition. Because it aligned with my current artistic theme, I was excited to meet other artists that focus on similar themes so I could see how their concepts manifested visually.
LC – Do you think ITSLIQUID GROUP can represent an opportunity for artists?
CMB – Yes, I think bringing together artists internationally and giving them a platform for sharing their work and their background is a great opportunity, especially for younger emerging artists.
LC – What do you think about ITSLIQUID Platform?
CMB – The call for artists is a nice way to bring artists from all over the world together, and holding the exhibitions in different parts of the world helps create the chance for artists to explore other cultures and see art from another perspective.