Haven’t heard of Chrystal Chan? Don’t worry, you will soon. This relative newcomer is turning heads with each new painting, and forging a style uniquely her own onto the New Contemporary art scene. Inspired by both spiritual and natural worlds, Chan's work is layered with depth and detail evoking dark, surreal narratives reminiscent of Grimm's fairy tales.
As one of the artists participating in ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ opening February 23rd at Cella Gallery, I had a chat with this unique talent. Here Chan talks about life growing up in Northern California, her fascination with the supernatural, and the ethnicity of her subjects.
You grew up in Northern California, an area rich with wildlife and vegetation. What was life like growing up in such a rural environment and how did it influence you as an artist?
It was a small town, so everyone in the neighborhood knew each other. I’d often visit my neighbor to look at their farm animals and two beagles. We even had a group of cowboys in our high school because there was a rodeo in town. I lived in an area with a lot of rolling hills, and a lake. Often you’d see random wild animals like deer, raccoons, opossums, snakes, small wild cats, and once even a wolf! The environment influenced my work because I often find myself painting animals that symbolize human nature. Also, I frequently paint forest areas and dry grass that are pretty similar in feeling to the area around that lake.
The majority of your works feature figures in metaphorical situations that appear to be derived from dreams and the supernatural. What is it about the dark and mysterious that you find so appealing?
The dark and mysterious is appealing because I feel that it exists, simultaneous to ours, just in another dimension. The spiritual dimension can reflect our mortal/physical one, just in a more visually active way.
One of your works for Something Wicked This Way Comes titled ‘Sinking’ depicts three females in various stages of being submerged in murky waters. Tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind this painting.
‘Sinking’ is based on the act of trying not to give into a reoccurring sin. The choice of doing what is right, and the struggle to do good.
What’s the most memorable comment (or question) you’ve ever heard someone say about your work and why?
The most memorable question was from my first show in college. A lady asked me, “Why is it that you only paint white people?” It was pretty odd, haha! I told her that I never intended the characters to be a specific race. Who knows exactly what they are; maybe they’re mixed with many races. It was memorable because that was the only question she asked, rather than seeing the narrative of the work.
When you’re not painting, how do you like to spend your free time?
I like to watch a lot of movies and shop for shoes! I also enjoy trying new food places, especially sweets related. Nature hikes are great too.
If you weren’t an artist, what do you think your occupation would be?
A composer. If that is too related to the arts, then I would be a mortician or a taxidermist. I’ve always been fascinated by human anatomy and driving a vintage funeral car or preserving animals.
View Chrystal Chan’s works in person at Cella Gallery and Stephanie Chefas present 'Something Wicked This Way Comes' on February 23rd.