We had the good fortune of connecting with Gregg Chadwick and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Gregg, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
Arrivals & Departures I’m listening to Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers iconic DC Go-Go song “Bustin’ Loose” as I write this, realizing how important my High School years in the Washington DC Metro area were to my personal and artistic growth. My weekdays were spent in school in Fairfax County, Virginia and my weekends and summers were often spent at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington DC. After art class, I would head out to the museums, which DC locals still call the galleries, to wade into the vast history of art, science, and politics. I was in the National Gallery of Art often enough that the guards began to recognize me and we would chat about the art on display. The guards knew how to take time to really look at a painting and would gently quiz me on what I saw.
I was particularly intrigued by Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait of “Ginevra de’ Benci.” “Look all you want. But don’t get too close, you might fall in” was a common bit of advice from the guards. When the tour groups moved into the room, I would step back and listen, adding their thoughts to my own observations. I usually spent 30 minutes with da Vinci’s Ginevra, which is much longer than the average of 30 seconds that viewers spend with an artwork according to museum researchers. Then I might visit Picasso’s “Family of Saltimbanques” before heading out to other museums along the mall. I later painted an artwork, “As If the Suburban Sky,” inspired by Picasso’s paintings of acrobats and the poem that Rilke wrote about the painting. Perfect for a student’s budget, the Smithsonian and National Gallery are free of entrance costs. In DC, I learned to take my time to look, to listen, and to understand.
Years later I was back in Washington DC on a momentous day. On June 26, 2015 Marriage Equality became the law of the land and with hundreds of others we celebrated on the Supreme Court steps in Washington DC. Later that day, I chatted with President Obama’s photographer Pete Souza in front of the White House which was lit up in rainbow colors in celebration of the LGBTQ community.
While we watched, the Presidential Marine Corps unit returned with president Obama from his moving speech at the memorial service for the church folks who were gunned down by a young white supremacist in South Carolina. President Obama sang “Amazing Grace” that day.
In her current Netflix film “Becoming”, Michelle Obama reflects upon that day as well. Michelle Obama describes how she and her daughter Malia sneaked outside that night, needing to share in the crowd’s joy after all the terrible grief in Charleston. They let the jubilation soften their anguish. Arrivals and departures. The struggle for equality for all continues. We need to look, to listen, and to make the effort to understand the struggles of others.
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.
“Fall in love with some activity, and do it! Nobody ever figures out what life is all about, and it doesn’t matter.” ~ Richard Feynman
(Physicist Richard Feynman’s scientific gaze ranged from life on earth to the deepest stretches of the cosmos.)
I spent hours in art and science museums as a kid, and the search to understand the natural world was part of my first ventures into image making. I became aware of the fragile nature of our planet as an elementary school student. For Christmas one year, I asked my parents for the book “Wildlife in Danger” published by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature). They are still an important organization providing information, plans, and hope for our endangered earth. Worried about the environment as a kid, I drew pictures of animals constantly. I discovered that I could get people interested in my ideas through my artwork. The first artwork I sold was of an endangered species, a Grévy’s zebra portrayed in pen and ink. I was then in High School and the gallery was located in Middleburg, Virginia. I was fourteen with a little cash in my pocket and big dreams. In my mind, I was now a professional artist. My business life had begun and before long I had a client who paid me for an oil portrait of their Polish cavalry officer ancestor. (I recently found color notes for the painting in an old sketchbook.) I then painted artworks for my brother’s friends at UC Davis and by the time I arrived at UCLA, I was selling a number of my paintings to a small group of clients. My art business was in its infancy, and I had a number of hard lessons to learn in the future, but my art business journey had begun.
My art career has been successful because of my authenticity and the dialogue this creates with my audience. At openings, I speak honestly and in detail about my inspiration and the historical or social underpinnings of my paintings. But it is equally important to me that my artworks leave room for the viewer to enter into the work and imagine their own story. Many times, a viewer’s interpretation of a painting will lead me to paint a new artwork inspired by our conversation.
As this is a ShoutOut, I also want to deeply thank my collectors. I am honored that my artworks are in your collections. Looking at a world map and knowing that my paintings have found homes across the globe gives me great joy and inspires me to continue creating art.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
My Perfect Week in Los Angeles With Friends
Day 1 – First stop Helen’s Bicycles on Broadway in Santa Monica. Our bikes are tuned up and ready to go. The best way to get around in L.A. is a mix of cycling and public transit.
The promise of coffee gets us up and moving in the morning. A freshly pulled espresso is a ticket to inspiration. We lock up our bikes and pop into goodboybob coffee at 2058 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA 90404 and sit on one of the couches to map out our itinerary. Nicely caffeinated, we head down to the the Marvin Braude Bike Trail which runs along the beach from Will Rogers State Beach to Torrance County Beach. We ride the 22-mile length, stopping for photo ops in Venice and then an early dinner at Back on the Beach at the Annenberg Community Beach House.
Day 2 – We venture to my studio at the 18th Street Arts Center Airport Campus and take in my artwork in progress and my current group exhibition which features my portraits of Nikole Hannah-Jones and H.E.R.:
“Being Well” is what we seek together as neighbors, and recalls one of the central guiding principles of the City of Santa Monica, the notion of “wellbeing” as key to civic health. Recovery Justice: Being Well, aims to highlight the recent circumstances that have evolved during the pandemic (racial justice demonstrations and destruction, as well as social discontent and general disconnection) into a series of self-organized artist projects that merges the exterior and interior public spaces of City of Santa Monica property. 18th Street Airport Campus at Santa Monica Municipal Airport will be the site where artists reimagine the city and beyond in the midst of complex social unrest globally. Recovery Justice will recuperate through various means the digital and physical footprints left in a city that struggles to reclaim the seemingly peaceful environment it once had. Artists will develop a palette for making and sharing artworks responding to the street experience in safe, healing and expressive modes. This porous series is a point of departure to reconcile and redefine the concept of justice.
Public appointments to visit the galleries will open March 29, and will end July 2, 2021. Appointments are available Monday – Friday at 10am, 1pm, 2pm, and 3pm. Please visit https://yearofwondersredux.eventbrite.com to sign up for an appointment.
18th Street Arts Center (Airport Campus)
3026 Airport Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90405
Dinner at Pono Burger on Broadway in Santa Monica with plenty of Vegan options.
829 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA 90401
Day 3 – We hop on the E Line (formerly known as the Expo Line) and take the train to visit Professor Jody Armour (https://gould.usc.edu/faculty/?id=129) and Janice Rhoshalle Littlejohn (https://janicelittlejohn.com/about/) at USC. Then on to artist Amy Sherald’s solo exhibition “The Great American Fact” at the Hauser & Wirth gallery in DTLA. https://www.hauserwirth.com/hauser-wirth-exhibitions/30731-amy-sherald-the-great-american-fact
Dinner with Jody and Janice and friends at Post & Beam in Baldwin Hills. https://postandbeamla.com/
Post & Beam
3767 Santa Rosalia Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90008
Day 4 – Getty Museum and UCLA –
(As I write this – The Getty Villa Museum is now open; the Getty Center will likely reopen in late May 2021) Both destinations are dangerous to access via bicycle. I have done it. So, we drive reluctantly.
Both destinations are inspiring. Art, architecture, history, and people watching. So much fun for an out of towner.
“Wait, was that Jack Black dancing through the exhibition with his adorable kid?”
Yep – welcome to Los Angeles!
Dinner with my wife Dr. MarySue Heilemann and friends at UCLA’s wonderful Plateia Restaurant at the Luskin Center. http://plateiaucla.com/
Then a private tour of the ten paintings on the history of nursing that I created for the UCLA School of Nursing. https://www.nursing.ucla.edu/walls-of-art
If its Basketball Season, we cheer for the Final Four Bruins at Pauley Pavilion.
Day 5 – Independent Bookstore Day
We bicycle to Caffe Luxxe at the Brentwood Country Mart before heading into Diesel Books. https://www.dieselbookstore.com/brentwood
Hop on the E-Line to Los Feliz to Skylight Books- 1818 N Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027 https://www.skylightbooks.com/
Back to Culver City for Arcana Books in the Helms Bakery District – 8675 Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232
And then on to a book reading at Book Soup: Bookseller to the Great and Infamous
(Uber, Lyft, or car) – 8818 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA, 90069 https://www.booksoup.com/
Dinner with neighborhood friends at – Rahel Ethiopian Vegan Cuisine, 1047 S.FAIRFAX
Day 6 – DTLA (Movie Palace Magic)
E- Line Again
It’s Saturday so we signed up for a tour of the historical movie palaces, the Bradbury Building and more with Los Angeles Conservancy https://www.laconservancy.org/events/historic-downtown-walking-tour
Lunch at Guisados – 541 S Spring St #101, Los Angeles, CA 90013 https://www.guisados.la/ (Leftovers for dinner as well)
Day 7 – Beach Day
Bicycle to the Santa Monica Pier, Relax at Will Rogers State Beach
Dinner at Cassia – 1314 7th St, Santa Monica, CA 90401
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
No Man is An Island (My ShoutOut Dedication)
I have a copy of John Donne’s poems and prose on the bookshelf in my studio. Over the years I have often flipped open the red orange volume and read his words – “No man is an island.” The concluding section always speaks to me as well – “Any man’s death diminishes me, Because I am involved in mankind.” I moved often as a kid, seven different schools in my first eight years of school, and had to rely on myself for many things, but I have never lost sight of the need to acknowledge and embrace friends and family. Because of the support of family, teachers, mentors, friends, peers, and my therapist, I have been able to create a thriving art practice. Over the years, many people have given me clues on how to find my artistic path and helped me along the way by giving me access to artistic tools, providing a strong knowledge base of ideas and concepts, opening me up to inspiration, and mentoring me on the business side of the arts. I would be remiss if I didn’t give shoutouts to the folks who have been with me along the way. I give details about some of the most influential below.
My family was the first to support my artistic leanings. As a kid I drew constantly, trying to make sense of my world through my fledgling artistic efforts. My parents would take to me to art museums in the cities that we lived in or passed by on our numerous travels. When we visited my dad’s parents in New Jersey, Grandma Chadwick would lead my older brother Kent and me on magical journeys to museums and libraries in New York, Newark, and Montclair. Thanks to these family outings, I began to grasp the complexities of art and its historical underpinnings. And thanks to my parents, I began to experiment with the red, black, and white chalks that the artists I viewed in the museums had used in their drawings. For my birthday one year, my Mom and Dad gave me a set of Conté crayons and a spiral bound sketchbook. From the public library, I would check out books on the collected drawings in the Louvre or a monograph on Watteau and I would then create studies in my sketchbook based on what I saw.
When we moved back to California for a few years when I was in Middle School, my Mom found an art teacher in San Juan Capistrano who gave group oil painting lessons in a room in the back of an art supply store. My teacher Neda had never taught a junior high school kid before, but she decided to give it a try. During my first painting lesson, Neda knew that I could learn from her. I finished each session full of excitement and covered in paint. Forget smocks, I needed freedom to move. Now, years later, I still think of Neda’s patient instruction as I work on a new painting. Neda would have me create a structure or armature for each new artwork by brushing transparent ultramarine lines across the surface to indicate the edges and movements of forms. Then Neda would have me use thicker more opaque oil color to build the forms while keeping the shadow areas transparent. Neda’s technique was sound and open ended. My artistic toolbox began to take shape.
I went to UCLA as an undergraduate and majored in studio art. At UCLA, I studied with Sandra Mendelsohn Rubin, Karen Truax, Sam Amato, Jan Stussy, and Peter Shelton. Under their guidance, I learned how to create my own style by studying,
absorbing, and then synthesizing the artworks of those who had created before me into something new.
Later I went to NYU to get my Master’s degree in studio art. At NYU, I studied with Dale McConathy, Angiola Churchill, and Richard Martin in New York. Giovanni Soccol at NYU’s campus in Venice, Italy was also an influential instructor. Dale and Richard were brilliant scholars, writers, and curators who encouraged me to find the written and visual thought behind my artwork. My knowledge base of ideas and concepts grew.
While I was in grad school in New York, my brother Kent and his wife Cathy moved to Japan. As soon as my graduate exhibition finished, I hopped on a plane to Tokyo. We had spent time in Asia as kids with our family and always wanted to get back. My brother lived in Osaka which has a rich art and literary history. Each night a street vendor selling hot roasted sweet potatoes would push his cart through the neighborhood singing out Yakimo! with his haunting voice. Inspired by night scenes like this, I created a series of oil paintings that became part of my first solo exhibition in Japan. Stories like dreams found their way into my paintings then and now. Thanks to Kent and Cathy, a whole new artistic world opened up for me.
My wife MarySue Heilemann is a huge source of inspiration in my life. She is a tenured professor at the UCLA School of Nursing. Our conversations and travels are deep and global in scope. Her work using transmedia interventions to reduce stigma and increase help among Latinas struggling with depression and/or anxiety inspires me greatly. MarySue was a delegate to the United Nations-Commission on the Status of Women in 2018 where she spoke on transmedia and presented her own transmedia intervention project Catalina: Confronting My Emotions. I created a series of paintings inspired by MarySue’s Catalina film shoot and also have created a series inspired by the history of nursing. Many of our interests and connections overlap. One event stands out – I had a solo show of my paintings in Maastricht, The Netherlands in 2010. Schema Therapy has been an important part of MarySue’s work and the experts in the field happened to be at The University of Maastricht at that time. This group of colleagues attended the exhibition and we ended up having a marvelous cross-disciplinary opening night dinner that evening.
My daughter Cassiel is currently finishing up her last year at UC Berkeley in Media Studies. Over the years, we have had countless conversations about art and inspiration. Now, Cassiel inspires me again with her DeCal class which she co-teaches with other students at UC Berkeley – “Visual Narratives and Storytelling.” In Cassiel’s course students “critically look at media representations and meanings in multiple cultural and identity contexts, observe technical aspects of both the visual and textual, and then apply their learning by producing a final creative project.”
In terms of the business side of the arts, a few mentors and organizations stand out.
I meet monthly with art writer Peter Clothier and his wife Ellie Blankfort in a small group with other artists informally known as Artists’ Matters. We discuss everything and anything that concerns the artist life. The group is instrumental to my artistic practice.
(More on Peter Clothier at https://peterclothier.com/about/biographies/ )
In 2017 and 2018 I was a fellow in the Clark Hulings Fund Business Accelerator Program which provides free tools for artists to maximize their business potential. As Clark Hulings Fund Director Elizabeth Hulings often reminds us, “Artists deserve every opportunity to earn a living from their work. To do this, business expertise is just as vital as creativity and artistic technique.”
(More on CHF at: https://www.laweekly.com/clark-hulings-fund-offers-free-online- career-building-fellowship-for-artists/)
I currently am a resident artist at the 18th Street Arts Airport Campus in Santa Monica, California. The 18th Street Arts Center is a leading arts program in the US. It was conceived as a radical think tank in the form of an artist community. 18th Street supports artists like myself, to imagine, research, and develop significant, meaningful new artworks and share them with the public. As an 18th Street Arts Center artist, I am honored to have been involved in experiences and partnerships that foster positive social change.
I give deep thanks to all who have been with me on this path!
Article Photo – Kavich Reynolds Productions Subsequent Photos of Gregg Chadwick – MarySue Heilemann