Patricia Chow and the meaning of ultramarine

 

By Patricia Chow

I moved to Los Angeles in 2014, after 11 years as a New Yorker. During those years, I went to graduate school, began and finished a career, learned to love opera, and mounted my first fine art exhibition – a crowd-sourced photography group show that was simultaneously a fundraiser for the nonprofit where I was a board member. What I never did in New York City was paint. At the time, my relationship to painting was purely as a viewer, standing a respectful distance away, wondering how in the world they did that. Who would have thought that three years later, at the instigation of my Los Angeles painting professor, the indomitable Barbara Kerwin, that I would find myself pursuing a graduate degree in painting?

 

Our first-year MFA group show was titled “Twelve,” for the 12 of us that started the MFA in Art program at Claremont Graduate University this past August. The works I created for the show were made with oil pigment sticks, built up into a thick impasto texture by smashing them onto the canvas with a palette knife and mixing colors alla prima. The paintings are about the loss of meaning and culture through the generations and across the seas. Words, behaviors, rituals become hybridized, sometimes beyond recognition, when transplanted to a different environment, just as language and writing change over time, eventually past the point of intelligibility. Each of my paintings starts with a Chinese calligraphic text, drawn in black, that becomes obscured through layers of superimposed texture and color, ending in a very different visual experience compared to the black and white text that “birthed” it.

Patricia Chow in the MFA-exhibition.
Patricia Chow’s two paintings pictured left in the Twelve-exhibition at the East and Peggy Phelps Galleries.

The largest painting (60 x 48 in.) is titled “Outremer” (French for “ultramarine”). The cool colors and coral-like shapes evoke underwater life, but the title also refers to the French territories in the South Pacific (called “outre-mer” in French, meaning “overseas”), that were visited by Gauguin and others interested in the decidedly un-PC idea of “primitivism,” and also where France has conducted a large number of controversial nuclear tests. Thus, in addition to the Chinese text being washed away “underwater,” the painting’s title also alludes to aspects of modern world history that some might prefer to be swept under the rug.

Patricia Chow with her paintings.
Patricia Chow with her recent paintings.

 

Each of my paintings starts with a Chinese calligraphic text, drawn in black, that becomes obscured through layers of superimposed texture and color, ending in a very different visual experience compared to the black and white text that “birthed” it.

 

Patricia Chow is a Los Angeles-based artist whose abstract paintings engage the intersection of Eastern and Western cultures across time and space, and the hybridization and reinterpretation of meaning. She is currently a first-year MFA student in Los Angeles, CA.

Twelve is on view at the East and Peggy Phelps Galleries, Claremont Graduate University, through October 20, 2017.

"Elephant Love" Pop-up Shop: Crowdsourcing for art and charity

By Patricia Chow
Last weekend I had my first photography show in Chelsea (New York City), as part of the High Line Open Studios.  Since my day job is in statistical research, this was my first experience putting together an art show – and it was fabulous!  The show was a great way for me to combine three completely separate facets of my life: the artistic side (I am a photographer and graphic artist); the volunteer side (I teach ESL 3 days a week); and my personal and professional networks, which were instrumental in ensuring the success of the show.
 
 
I first started to photograph when I was living in Spain in 1995, and much of my photography focuses on the different perceptions that a newcomer has of ordinary surroundings. Since beauty can only exist in the eye of the beholder, I have tried to convey the essence of what I find beautiful in a place, rather than what is commonly considered beautiful, which, in many cases, is simply familiar.  There are a few images below – you can view more of my work on my photo blog.  Selected images are available for purchase as prints on Society6 and facebook.
 
 
 
In addition to photography, I also create whimsical, stylized elephant designs.  “Elephant Love” is the brand name for these designs, which are also sold on Society6 and facebook.  They are inspired by artists and design companies such as Marimekko, Keith Haring, Andy Warhol and Walasse Ting, as well as by traditional folk arts such as Russian matryoshka (nesting) dolls and the molas that are embroidered by the Kuna Indians in Panama.  A variety of home decor and novelty items are available with these designs, such as posters/prints, blank stationery cards, throw pillows, iPhone covers, tote bags and clothing (t-shirts, tank tops, hoodies, etc.).  The bright colors are great for decorating your apartment or nursery/kid’s room.

Because my work is primarily digital, I appealed to my friends and family for donations to cover the cost of producing physical items for my show. This was my first attempt at crowdsourcing and I was very impressed by how supportive everyone was.   
In order to encourage people to support my show, I promised to donate the profits from the sale of artwork and merchandise to a good cause: the Institute for Immigrant Concerns, where I am a board member.  The Institute is a New York City non-profit that provides free English classes and basic social services to low income immigrants, refugees and asylees.  The amazing stories of our alumni have been featured in the New York Times and other newspapers.  I was a volunteer English teacher with them for two years before becoming a board member, and 
 
I continue to volunteer with them about 12 hours a week.  The combination of the artistic cause and the social cause was a great way to reach a wider audience.

We are planning one more open studio day in a few weeks (possibly Thursday, November 7), so stop by if you happen to be in the area!  Details about the event to follow soon…  In the meantime, check out my website, blog and facebook page!  Thank you for your support!
 
Patricia Chow  

Photographer, Block-by-Block Photography
Graphic Artist, Elephant Love
(Read Patricia’s Firstindigo&Lifestyle interview from April 2013 here)