We had the good fortune of connecting with Chelsea Stewart and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Chelsea, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
I knew early on that I wanted to pursue a career in the arts, since elementary school art has always been a large influence on me and one of the subjects that I felt I had the most fun in. As I grew up I began to see how art was a way for people to express how they viewed and understood the world. During my undergraduate years, I was exposed to residencies and the impact they have on artists. Seeing how artists are able to manipulate their studio practice and express themselves so differently using either similar mediums or completely different tools of making, was really interesting to me. Hearing the stories of other artists, and the “hooks” that they have in their art to pull people into their world and make them understand the world around us is something I am really invested in, and makes me want to be a better artist. I want to communicate the way I see the world, and use my art and skillset to help others, whether that be physically or conceptually.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Please tell us more about your art.
My art consists of themes around nostalgia, family, mental health, and process-oriented art. I construct interdisciplinary abstract work and paper installations. The relationships between feeling grounded, growing up, the human body and mind form the fundamentals of my work. Through all of this, I also admire the meditative process of the act of making to communicate my emotions related to these topics.
Seeing family members go through experiences such as dementia, anxiety and depression has inspired me to make work that depicts the feeling of being grounded. Growing up is something that is scary to a lot of people, and the theme of nostalgia is something I am currently exploring- changing routines, the unraveling of traditions, moving away from what we knew at such a young age. The vulnerability, tension and delicate state of the materials and of paper echoes the emotions that are felt when going through difficult times or transitions. Care shows through in the meditative process of making the work, juxtaposing the frustration, anger and confusion that reveals itself through these tangible formations. I use a variety of mediums including weighted blankets, torn up self- help books, acrylic paint and more in micro- and macro- scales.
We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about.
I am most proud of how I have grown as an artist both conceptually and physically. I recently started my MFA program and I am looking forward to the next couple of years as I further develop my art practice. I think the medium that I work in primarily- paper- there is a small but mighty and ever-growing niche of us in the contemporary art world at the moment and I am excited to see how this medium grows and evolves along with it.
How did you get to where you are today professionally?
Through support of family and friends, and largely through fellow creatives. Content Magazine is an amazing resource and community to be a part of. Instagram calls for art have also been something I am constantly looking at. I think cultivating a strong community of artists and creatives around oneself is vital and necessary- whether that be critiquing each others work, boosting the other up when you see a call for art that could help the other, others to bounce ideas off of, the list goes on.
Was it easy?
It was and still is not easy, time management can be hard but I think having a routine and allowing yourself to take things in waves and knowing when to rest, when you best work during the day (I’m a night owl), and surrounding yourself with a strong core group of people who will be there to support you through anything is the key elements.
What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way?
When I first started solidly applying for shows, I was thinking I needed to apply to everything under the sun, which is true in some ways, but in the last two years I have learned better techniques when it comes to applying, and what is better economically. Learn as much as you can- I have taken curatorial workshops, listened to multitudes of artist talks, and read a lot of books on professional artist practices that have been really helpful.
What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
I want people to know how art can help impact and make a positive impact on people, and use my art to help normalize talking about mental health. Art has helped me in lots of ways and I have loved finding new mediums to experiment with in my practice.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I would love to take my friends to the San Jose ICA, they have had some awesome exhibitions recently and the community they cultivate is fantastic. I would take them over to San Pedro Square Market. I’d also recommend the art in downtown Palo Alto, and the restaurants there. I love going over to Half Moon Bay, the HMB Brewing Co and running the dog on the beach down there too. Filoli Historic House and Gardens is fantastic to go sit out and have a charcuterie too.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I want to give a shoutout to my fellow artist and friend Autumn Nicole, who’s friendship and support and fellow artistic advice has been something that I have always relied on and trusted. I want to shoutout the people of Content Magazine, an amazing group of creatives making large strides within contemporary art in the Bay Area. I would like to shoutout Art in Action, which was a catalyst in my love for art as a kid in elementary school and a fantastic nonprofit organization that helps provide art education to kids in K-8 schools. To my professors in the Art Department at Cal Poly SLO, they all are amazing and I can’t say enough how much I am grateful for their ongoing support. Lastly, the Getting Your Sh*t Together book by Karen Atkinson and GYST-Ink, and the GYST resources as a whole have been amazing resources for me as an emerging artist.
Images taken by me or Daniel Garcia @thecultivator