Saturday, November 26, 2011

Emily Chesley - Painter

Emily Chesley

Altered Esthetics featured artist for
12/1/11 - 12/17/11
Reception Friday 12/2 7-10pm
Artists' Discussion Saturday 12/17 3-5pm

Name:Emily Chesley
City/State:St. Paul, MN
Website: profile:
Facebook page: (Optional)

Tell me about your work? What are you currently working on? How is this different from past projects?

Right now I am working on a Sketchbook Project. I signed up way back in June or July for it. I picked a theme, Time Travel, and they sent me a sketch book. I have to fill it and send it back by the end of January. They will scan it for their online database, I understand that it will be searchable as well. Then they load up their sketchbook library van and tour the United States, London, England and Sydney, Australia with all of them. People can check them out and take a look at them. Then, when the tour is done, my sketchbook will become part of their permanent collection at the Brooklyn Art Library. There is a barcode on the back for the tour, so I can track its journey. I plan on posting pins on a map on my website so others can follow too.

I have also been working on a show with cats and birds. There is a focus on the seasons, which I like to explore. This time around there is a little bit of exploration into the hunter/prey aspect of life. I will be tying that into the overall cycle of life with the seasons. I tend to focus my subject matter on the painting of portraits of people, but I like painting cats too. I guess this was an extension of things I have done before. I have also started doing some work that is more on a graphic story telling end. I have created some paintings that aren't specific people but more about an idea that generic people are involved in. It was a way to show personal feelings and personal expression with some distance attached to it, so that someone wouldn't be able to say, "oh that was me, is that how I made you feel?"

Overall though, I have a desire to explore human nature. What are the experiences that are inherent, that we can't get away from as humans? By focusing on these experiences I hope to connect with other people. If I paint these things then anyone could look at the painting and connect to it somehow, even in a small way. I want there to not only be the realities of life but a presence of hope and light in my work. I wonder if looking to animals might be a way to understand human even more.

Javier and Miz Kitten

"What is Art?" is certainly too big of a question to ask here, but what do you hope your audience takes away from your art? What statement do you hope to make?

I hope that my viewers feel less alone. Essentially we are all alone. What we as humans do is strive for connection, community and acceptance. I like to focus on what makes us the same, makes us human while celebrating our beautiful differences. If I can make a connection with someone through my art, a connection that makes them feel a little less alone in this world, then I will have accomplished what I set out to do. I also look at a balance of dark and light. I represent depression with darkness and hope with a light source. I try to have a light source in every painting because I think that hope is what keeps me going and maybe it will be helpful for others too. I think that a lot of the art being produced today has too much of a focus on negative so I strive to be countercultural to that.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?

Always say yes because you can figure out how to make it happen.

Blending into an Untitled

Tell me about your work space and your creative process.

My work space is currently a front porch sunroom that is adjacent to my bedroom. There isn't much space, and I am still making it function, but there is the most amazing natural light in there during the day! Light is a very important thing to me and being able to paint. I have painted in basements before, because that was the space available, and it doesn't work very well for me. It may be a slight seasonal affective disorder thing, a lot of artists/creative folks struggle with that.

I really like to work in series. I take a theme like cats and birds and put it to seasons, or figure out a way to do variations or multiples. I love color and will represent seasons that way, or will unify the series by painting the same color background. I work in oil and have enjoyed developing a method of layering and developing my paintings. I like to think about what is underneath, for example skin under hair, or a darker color under something light that I want to have depth. I also like to paint 4 or 5 paintings at once, when I have the space for that. It is a helpful method for oils because when I get done with the first layer and it needs to dry, I can move onto the next painting in the series and use similar colors (because they are all ready mixed.) Unification is important to me with my work, mostly I accomplish this with my color use. Never use a color just once in a painting, is my rule.

Image of artist

Who are some of the Minnesota artists you enjoy?

Brandon Sweet ( is a photographer friend of mine, I really enjoy his portraits.
Theodora Brass is a local burlesque artist and costume/prop maker. She is so creative and I really love her work too!
Jesse Golfis ( uses color really well and I like his use of brush strokes and texture. He has been painting public icons. I also really love his spirit and energy.

I have good friends who are wonderful artists that started out here in MN but have moved on to bigger markets. I love their work a lot so I will include them too: Tonja Torgerson ( and Dana Johnson (

If I were to follow you around to see art in Minnesota, which places would we go? What would we see?

We would spend a lot of time at the Walker art Center (, because I work there, but I enjoy going to the MIA ( as well, maybe better. I really enjoy paintings and sculptures from the 19th and early 20th centuries: Degas, Matisse, Van Gogh, Monet, Cezanne. My favorite exhibitions there were the Degas show and the Pre-Raphaelites show and I am excited to see the 'Edo Pop' show there as well! My favorite Walker show was 'Benches and Binoculars', I really enjoy the Blue Horses and Chuck Close portraits.

If I am going to a show then it is because I am either in it or I have a friend who is. Altered Esthetics ( is a local gallery I frequent for shows. Also the Color Wheel Gallery (

Where do you go online for good art resources, whether to find a new artist, or to see what is going on in the art world locally and otherwise?, Springboard for the Arts,

The Ever Solid, the Ever Changing

Do you have any exhibits to promote in the near future?

I have a show up now at Dunn Brothers in Roseville, on Fairview till early January but what I am most excited about is the Altered Esthetics show "Rescue Me III" this December. I was chosen as the featured artist for that show, the opening reception is Friday, December 2nd 7-10pm.

What can we expect to see from you in the future?

Hopefully more paintings, I am in the thinking part of the process for a triptych (or it may become a more drawn out series) that shows an awakening and a searching/discovery of the self. I am going to start a sketchbook study for the project as well, to help me plan and process. I like what I have found myself producing in the Sketch Book Project I mentioned before and I might adopt that kind of approach for other projects too. I like doing research for my projects and the sketch book seems like a good way to record all that research in one place as well as keep a quick reference for myself. I also end up with a nice little finished product when I am done with that too.

I also hope to have the cat and bird show finished and out on view soon.

Glance of Summer

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