By: Audrey Levinson
People’s homes say so much about them,” said Chelsea Gibson. They wreak of the past and present of a person. Chelsea works to paint as much information about a soul as possible, which includes all the details in the room where her subject is posed. Her portraits are not just of the human element within the picture but also of the “things” that surround that individual.
Chelsea’s goal is to honor the essence of the figure as well as the everyday things that are personal to each specific person she paints. That essence often comes from the people you’ve lost. The objects that are revered and treated with love carry a beautiful weight in a person’s life. For example, she said that her father’s cello is almost a stand in of him to her, and she couldn’t imagine life without it. In her work, she wishes to communicate an encompassing point of view from behind her eyes. This has been an important direction since graduate school she told me. She photographs her subject and the room she is in and tapes together a picture that is not necessarily in the shape of a rectangle or square. Her compositions are literally outside of the box depending on how much she wishes to convey. She admires the work of David Hockney, who is known for his photographic collages and Alice Neal for her painterly style. Her most inspiring artist is Josephine Halverson. I was very attracted to Chelsea’s style of painting. To me, it looked as if she separated each color and broke down every plane of dark and light. Not only does the eye become privy to the subject and the surroundings but her brush strokes of color create beautiful lights and a dramatization of the whole picture.
Chelsea grew up in Western Massachusetts. Her mother, a principal of a school had Chelsea with her in Springfield Mass. during the week where Chelsea attended school in inner-city Springfield. On weekends, they would return to their home in the country. She had a taste of both worlds. She told me that her father, a cellist, began her cello lessons at three years old. Chelsea, it seemed would be a musician. She was accepted into a top-notch Conservatory of music and did become a semi-professional cellist for a while. However, practice did not make her perfect, and she did not enjoy the six hours a day of it. She wanted to paint. When Chelsea was about 11 years old, her father did a wonderful loving thing for her- he built a wall in her oversized bedroom so that she had a space for her oil painting.
She expressed gratitude and appreciation that this was a part of her young life. What adds to this fact is that her Aunt and Uncle, who were both professional artists gave her, her first painting lessons. This is an important part of her story because she never took art in school. It was not offered in elementary or middle school, and she didn’t need it in high school due to her seriously artistic home life. She said she was a very serious child when it came to her after-school activities. She did note, however, that she felt art is very important in schools today to help children connect to other parts of their education and grow their creative minds.
Chelsea now lives in Gilbertsville, a small town in the Catskills. I asked her if she ever paints the surrounding beauty of nature. She replied that she doesn’t like dealing with weather conditions when she paints and is much more satisfied with taking her dog for a walk just to clear her head everyday. She is very excited about the new studio built in her home. Her home was once the cow barn to a farm. The bottom of this barn has been converted to a home. I told her that she was a very brave woman to take on the undertaking of her barn to home project. She responded by telling me that her husband was a very talented building contractor and good at his craft. Otherwise, this would have not been possible. The subjects she paints are her artist friends who live within the area.
The one exchange that Chelsea expressed in her life was that of the direction she took after college. According to her, most graduates go to the “big city” or at least Brooklyn. They have access to the business of art more conveniently, but they are almost typecasted as the artist along with many others. It’s expensive and easy to run up debt and a much harder place to live in. However, the artist is right there in the scene and once chosen to show his or her work is close in proximity for this to happen. Not only that but there are many people just like you to commune and build artist friendships with. Chelsea loves where she lives but does wish to get to NYC more often for business.
She is looking forward to two important projects that are coming up in NYC and Chelsea. She has a one-man show on Madison Ave. with an opening on Jan. 10th. Chelsea is also currently teaching middle and high school art teachers painting classes at The Golden Paint Factory.