Chelsea Flowers, a recent graduate of Cranbrook Academy of Art, explores themes of visibility and physicality through the medium of performance. Find more at the links below!
Can you tell me a little bit about you?
Hi Kate, I am Chelsea A. Flowers, originally from Cleveland, OH, and currently based in Detroit, Michigan. I recently graduated from Cranbrook Academy of Art. My education, undergraduate and graduate experience has been interesting and eye opening. I am one of few in my family to go to college and the only one to obtain a masters degree, and these sentiments of race, accessibility and power/privilege have made me rethink educational institutions, and how I navigate within/out one.
And a more fun fact I do stand up as part of my practice.
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
I discovered art first in high school. I had friends who took IB art classes. I was suppose to be in orchestra class, but I would skip orchestra to go hangout with them and just draw, listen to music and hear about my art teacher’s experiences of being a painter. It was then that I knew that I had a relationship stronger than just liking art, but that it could be this therapeutic and cathartic thing.
It wasn’t until my Jr. year of college that I realized being a maker was apart of me. And I changed my major and minor to get a BFA in art.
And then honestly I didn’t take myself seriously as an artist until grad school.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
The theme I am currently addressing is visibility. I am curious about “how I can I find community and understanding when I am not seen?” I think that cultural misunderstandings are happen due to the lack of individuals “seeing” and acknowledging what they “see.” I am working to figure out how my physicality can have visibility. My practice has changed in the past year or so because I have been endeavoring in this inquiry and my response to this question has been to undertake performance. Specifically stand up comedy to address these issues.
What is your process like?
I work in a combination of intuitively and research based. A lot of my work is experience/narrative based. While the other side of my practice is research based. For pieces I do light planning in advance. I’ll do a sketch with some general notes, read some theory or get a deeper historical understanding. But as the piece progresses, it will shape into it’s own formation.
It typically takes me 3 weeks-2 months. Depending on the size of the piece/installation. I typically work on one installation/piece at a time, and I while I am working on the “piece” I typically craft a performance that goes along with it.
I am interested in themes of race, identity, power dynamics, comedy and empathy.
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
Yes, I had the pleasure of working with a really strong cohort in my grad program, and the conversations we’ve had have really contributed to how I think about my practice. But the most interesting piece of advice that has stuck with me is “not everyone is going to care about what you do.” and “We don’t tell both sides (of a story) we tell what we think is the right side.”
What is your studio like?
My studio is fluid. Much of my fabrication time happens at residencies when I have the access and time to utilize woodshops, vinyl and laser cutters and materials like that. When I am not at residencies, my studio is in my home. And I work on writing, and video work.
What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
I find art openings daunting, be it my opening or someone else’s, the power dynamics in the art world make it awkward. And there is a lot of judgement in the art world (from my experience), so getting over anxieties about socializing is semi-challenging.
Also of course finding ways to support myself. I have been blessed with stipends from residencies and a grant. But without this funding I would not be able to make the work that I am interested in.
It’s also silly and ridiculous that there is this idea of the “starving artist” when there is sooo much money in the art world (auctions, collectors, gallerists). So finding those resources is a challenge.
What are three words you would use to describe your work?
Subversive, Comical, Knowledge
What are you working on right now?
Currently I am working on expanding a party “celebrating” the legacy of Ronald Reagan and his War on Drugs. I utilize nostalgic aesthetics to setup the party in the form of a child’s birthday party, including mixed media to make goodie bags, karaoke videos of my stand up material and other party elements. The first rendition is actually on view at The Muted Horn Gallery in Cleveland. But I am working on expanding the “birthday party elements.”
I also am working on writing at least once a week new stand up material.
And I am also working on creating more questions for this game that I created in 2016. It is a game about American/Black culture and how empathy and understanding can be fostered. It will be traveling in the summer/spring and I am working on updating the game since is reflective of our society.