Artist Feature: Aleah Chapin

Editor Shenyah Webb, Art, July 5th, 2016

"...what it really means to be in a body, whatever your age, gender or skin color."

Aleah Chapin artist feature
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Our bodies are an endless territory. Loving them, feeling out of place in them, knowing them, growing in and out of them, accepting them. Some of us struggle with the love and acceptance part. It seems the older I get, the easier it becomes, even though my body is changing in ways that the social masses see as less than ideal; wrinkles, greys, the forces of gravity, the thick parts, the uneven skin tone…I am learning to embrace all of these parts, and with doing so, my spirit is ignited, erasing what was once understood as ugly. I remind myself of this everyday. These parts become beautiful. These parts become loved.

When I look at Aleah Chapin’s portraiture, I am reminded how beautiful we all are, she takes the beauty of the body to a space the world needs more of. It’s clear that her subjects own the love for themselves. With her Aunties series, she brings out a carefree child-like spirit from women who have aged, redefining physical beauty. With her most recent series, Body/Being, each of her subjects owns their identity, honing in on strength and confidence while revealing the vulnerability of being. I asked Chapin to expand on these artworks.

“The work I do now really began from moving across the country to a world so different from the one I grew up in. The distance that living in NYC imposed, provided something so essential; being able to see and appreciate the people and place of my childhood in the Pacific Northwest. I was also in a bit of a crisis, not know what I wanted to make work about, but knowing I wanted it to be meaningful. This pressure I put on myself ended up forcing me to literally start at the beginning and paint what I knew; my mother and my aunties. At that beginning, it wasn’t about age or beauty, it was about discovering my roots and my voice. It was through this though, that I found something universal.

The Aunties Project has grown into my attempt at getting at those big thoughts and feelings I have about beauty, age, health, body, and spirit through painting what I know. Body/Being also began from a personal place when my cousin came out as non-binary, but quickly grew to be about much more than gender. In this body of work, it was more about exploring what it really means to be in a body, whatever your age, gender or skin color. In each project, and in all of my work, I try to express that idea that through our individuality we are all the same. It is in these minute specifics that I believe we find our unity.

I know that the best work I can make is from my own experiences in life; the people I know, the lens I see the world through. My hope is that through these paintings of individuals close to me, I can get at that bigger human experience of being in a body in this world that each and every one of us shares.”

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All Oil Painting images are courtesy of Flowers Gallery, © Aleah Chapin

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Aleah ChapinBorn in 1986, Aleah Chapin grew up on an island north of Seattle and has been painting since she was a child. She received her BFA from Cornish College of the Arts in 2009 and her MFA from the New York Academy of Art in 2012. Chapin attended a residency at the Leipzig International Art Programme in Germany and has exhibited her work in the US, the Netherlands, Germany, and the UK. She has been the recipient of several awards including the Posey Foundation Scholarship, Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation Grant, and a Postgraduate Fellowship from the New York Academy of Art. Most recently she won first place in the BP Portrait Award Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London. She is represented by Flowers Gallery in New York, NY.

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Shenyah Webb

Shenyah Webb is a Portland-based visual artist and musician. She has been with NAILED Magazine since its inception in 2012 and has served as the Arts Editor and a Contributing Editor since its launch in 2013. A Detroit native, she attended The College for Creative Studies, where she focused on Fine Art and Industrial Design. She is currently enrolled in a Somatic Expressive Arts Education and Therapy training program, studying under Lanie Bergin. You can learn more about Shenyah here. (Shenyah.com)