Culture Maker with Artist Chrissy Scolaro
Mom, meet Chrissy.
Chrissy is an artist. Chrissy is fun. Chrissy makes art that is fun. (Can you tell I just read Go, Dog, Go?)
Seems simple, right?
But, actually, it’s difficult. Chrissy just makes it look easy.
I met Chrissy when she was a wee teen, a friend of my little sister’s. I remember she came right out and said she wanted to be an artist, which felt bold to me at the time. And I recall feeling jealous that she was able to say, with confidence and without shame, that she planned to pursue something as impractical as art. Beause, it takes some serious guts to believe that you can live and work outside of the status quo and, in reality, most people (myself included) are too chicken to give it a go. Chrissy’s got serious guts. And grit too. She’s worked hard to stay committed to her goal— moved all over US for her BFA, post-Bach, and MFA, created supportive artistic communities in all of these places, and financed the bulk of it with a steady gig at Trader Joe’s. She’s got the drive to work and work and work on something that’s mostly ambiguous, often unclear, and always complex.
The result of all that (HER ART) is fun. Fun, art, fun!
1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m originally from outside of Chicago, but haven’t lived there for some time now. Most recently, I moved from outside of Detroit (where I was attending graduate school) to Philadelphia, PA where I wear a few different hats—I have a studio and continue to make my own artwork and am also a co-director of an artist-run gallery space called FJORD Gallery in Kensington, PA. On Mondays-Fridays I work as an assistant to the curators and other staff members of the Contemporary department at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
2. Describe your work.
My work primarily investigates color, shape and patterning, as well as positive and negative space. My work manifests mostly as small cut paper collages and large-scale sculpture. The materials I am usually using in my sculptures are steel and vinyl. In terms of my patterning, I’m really interested in shapes that are can quickly be categorized…people, including myself, seem to have a need to identify the abstract and this has always both interested and humored me; I’m really curious about this reliance on language we have developed. It’s like Duck or Rabbit – and it shouldn’t matter but, you wouldn’t believe some of the arguments I’ve overheard in my studio when people are looking at my work.
The “cut out” is also a large factor in my work. This part of my process is really the fun part for me because I don’t plan much beforehand, so these gestures are not always successful. This can be frustrating because I’m typically cutting into vinyl that I’ve painted 2-3 times with a pattern (to achieve full opaqueness) but I always learn a lot from all the different failures in my work and feel that planning everything out exactly would really eliminate the aspect of surprise for me, which is definitely my high in the studio. The pace at which I cut, and the way that the cuts fall, also seem to affect the different personalities they seem to take on.
Currently I’m working on a large totem made out of sheet steel that I’m hoping to install in a public space in Philadelphia.
3. What do you do most days? Do you have a routine?
Ah, I definitely have a routine, maybe to a fault, haha. Mondays-Fridays I always wake up at about the same time, 6:30am...5:15am if I’m working out that morning. I try to get to the gym about 3 times a week before work since I like to keep my evenings free. I get to the museum at about 8:45 AM and then work until 5:00 or 6:00 PM. My weekday evenings are usually spent at my studio, at a FJORD meeting or event, or at other art openings, lectures, talks, etc. around the city. I keep fairly close tabs on happenings around the city, and am usually hopping around to anything I can make it to. I’m really excited because I’m about to start a ceramics class as well, so that will be getting squeezed into Monday evenings.
4. Describe something you’ve created that makes you proud.
I’m really happy with a three-color silk-screenprint I made last summer when I did the post-grad apprenticeship at the Fabric Workshop and Museum. I had never done much printmaking, and the process of silk-screening is very labor intensive but incredibly rewarding. I am really thankful to have had the opportunity to do this residency…I would not have been able to realize my design without the input and help of the FWM staff.
5. Who/What is inspiring you these days?
I’m so inspired by other artists who are also running gallery spaces; I joined FJORD about two years ago, and it’s a lot of work! It’s amazing to me to think about all of the galleries in Philadelphia, and around the world, being run by artists—and artists who may have families as well as one or, often, two or three other jobs to boot. I’ve always felt that artists are each other’s best allies; I feel such invaluable support from my colleagues from school, residencies, etc.
I also have to give a shout out to my mom as well; she’s always been an inspiration to me. We had an opportunity to travel together in Poland this past summer and I’ve been thinking about that trip a lot recently. She’s a smart, kind, hilarious woman and we have a really unique relationship; I try to never take it for granted.
6. What books are you reading? What are some of your favorite books?
The last few books I read were A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, We Are Never Meeting In Real Life by Samantha Irby, and Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman. I am currently reading The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin. One of my all time favorite books is Bluets by Maggie Nelson.
7. What music are you listening to?
There will always be the usual suspects—The Talking Heads, The Flaming Lips, A Tribe Called Quest, Tame Impala, Radiohead, Wilco, Gorillaz, The Band, Fleetwood Mac, Beck. Some, I think lesser-known groups I’ve taken to, are Rubblebucket and Christine and the Queens.
8. What artists or designers do you like?
Too many to list! Maybe I’ll share some shows that I’ve seen recently that have really blown me away...a couple that I just have to mention are Otobong Nkanga at the MCA in Chicago and David Wojnarowicz at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Ree Morton’s solo show at the ICA in Philadelphia just opened up as well and I’m so excited to visit again soon. I’ve always loved her work for it’s materiality (she often used a material called “celastic” which is a plastic-impregnated fabric that when activated via acetone or heat, becomes malleable for a short time). The New York Times published a great article that dives in a bit more than I will here on her life and her short career. She incorporates text into many pieces and installations as well; I’m drawn to how she’s navigating words and phrases, and how her symbols become their own language; they have the ability to add punctuation to a room.
9. What clothes are making you feel good?
I’ve had a sort of summer-uniform of some loose boyfriend-style ripped jeans and a black sleeveless t-shirt tucked in with black Nike sneakers. It’s nothing fancy, but comfort comes first for me. I recently also bought a red jean jacket that I’m loving. I have an oversized olive colored tencel shirt from Zara that I picked up about 5 years ago that I wear pretty much whenever possible.
10. How can we support you and your work?
I do sell my work, so feel free to reach out if there’s something you’re interested in! www.chrissyscolaro.com
Chrissy, thanks for being such a hard-working badass. You’re making this world a whole lot more fun!
Keep on keepin’ on!