Artist Chasely Matmanivong completes senior exhibition
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many end-of-semester events celebrating student achievements have required new modes of expression. Each year, graduating art majors show their work in a senior exhibition in Judson’s on-campus Marian Acree Tucker Gallery. This year, senior Chasely Matmanivong will present her exhibition, What Broken Feels Like during Judson’s pre-Commencement “Linger a Little Longer” event. The exhibition will open with a reception in Marian Acree Tucker Gallery Friday, June 26 at 4:00 p.m. CST.
Katlin Bailey ’12, a former art major who now serves Judson as Creative Services Specialist, conducted a brief interview with Matmanivong about her work and artist statement.
As you explained in your artist statement, your body of work is a reflection on your pain from past relationships. You mention that some people write or talk about their experiences to overcome them, but you chose oil painting. What made you choose this medium, and how was it helpful for expressing yourself?
I chose oil painting because of how pliable the medium is. With oil painting you can apply layer after layer. In a sense, I am adding and hiding layers of myself in the piece. If you were to take an x-ray of my paintings, you would see multiple layers, and, interestingly enough, the first layer is skin tone colors. Then I added the layers of color to hide my figures. With oil paint you can also scrape off paint or add different textures to the layers, which helped me express myself as well as the situations of each painting.
You included the hairstyles you’ve had over the course of these relationships on the seemingly featureless busts. What guided this choice?
Again, if you were to put my paintings under an x-ray, they actually do have features like eyes, nose, and lips, but they are covered up to express the blindness and silence I experienced in the situations I was in. The abstract approach is to allow viewers to relate to my pieces and guide their eyes to various sections of the busts. I chose to include the hairstyles because the show is about my experiences, and this process allowed me to let go of the pain. So, I was doing self-therapy by allowing myself to paint myself, as well as telling the viewers that have experienced this that they are not alone.
There are a lot of vibrant colors in your pieces, yet your work deals with serious themes of abuse and pain. What made you choose such a contrast?
By using various colors, vibrant or not, I wanted this to relate to everyone. It all goes back to the layering. I wanted to hide some of the harsher colors under vibrant ones and vice versa. I want viewers to sit at these paintings for longer than a few seconds, to dissect them with their minds and understand that sometimes abuse can be hidden, and sometimes it’s not.
You included in your artist statement a quote by the famous anonymous street artist, Banksy: “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” Is there a piece in your show that you find especially comforting?
“Head in the Clouds” brought me the most comfort because of how simple it is. There are no features, limited colors, and no expression except for the position of the figure. The simplicity of the piece gives the show a nice breath of fresh air before going on, which is why it will be in the center of the show. Also, when things would get to be too much, and I had to take a break, I would go for rides around Marion. Around these times, it would be sunset, which, if you know, are quite extraordinary. These days, people are glued to their phones, but in Marion, there is something about the place that says, “Look up,” and that is what I would do when I needed a break.
There is more to the quote I used, though. Art is a means to express, and here I am expressing the pain I experienced. It is a comfort for me to be able to paint my emotions on canvas and share it with those who may have gone through, or are currently going through, the same thing. But I want people–especially those who may not have gone through this–to get uncomfortable because it could be happening to their friends, and they have no idea. It is a wake-up call to those who have never experienced this to check on their friends and be an outlet because this type of pain is difficult to get through alone.