Published on July 25, 2016. Interview by 2016 Summer Intern, Nicki Sheffield: Anne Chesnut is a local artist and graphic designer who had an exhibit in New City Arts WVTF and Radio IQ Gallery in February 2016.
Anne is our sixth featured 2016 artist in our second annual 7x7x7 Series, which asks 7 questions to 7 Charlottesville artists and published once a week for 7 weeks.
If you had a free afternoon in Charlottesville what would you do or where would you go?
Outside in the meadow with Ginny, my Vizsla, or digging in the dirt— gardening.
Describe your artistic work in 7 words.
I make art because I must.
Who or what inspires your current work?
Life. Who I know and have known. What I do and have done. Where I live and have lived.
Consider one print you’re working on right now. Give us a snippet of your routine— from start to finish, what goes into making it?
For each print there are multiple stages. First is an intention, ideas are imagined or conceptualized through sketches based on initial thoughts, additional research, visits, or related readings. Those visual notes are then interpreted into a combination of drawings, paintings, traditional prints, photographs, renderings, and scans. Next, the individual images that have been created are reorganized as I stare at a computer screen and stare and tinker some more as new perceptions are suggested. After this gestation, a new image emerges on paper, which reverts back to handwork as I put the final touches on a new print through sewing.
Working back and forth between prints helps with a multi-step process; so I am always working on multiple prints in tandem. Underway are two new sets of prints. New place-based prints, about our locale and places I have traveled, for Les Yeux du Monde's third iteration of “Picasso, Lydia, and Friends” opening in August. And, prints about the shapes of Congressional district that is a continuation of my “Commentary Quilt” series. These prints have considered with whimsy aspects of the Motor Voter law and First Amendment's right to free speech and through historical lists of changing laws and regulations examined the country’s recurring cycles of voter enfranchisement and disenfranchisement and citizenship opportunities and exclusion.
What have you learned about yourself as a person through the experience of making art?
For me art is not about self-discovery and it is not about just making art. Rather, it is a means to critically examine aspects of the world, nature, or ideas through visual observation, exploration, discernment, scrutiny, or analysis.
What would you like to see happen in Charlottesville to better support artists in our community?
Maker spaces. Embracing new technology early and having taught I am particularly interested in providing access and encouraging students and educators to explore and experiment. While many of these spaces have focused on access to new technology, introducing and connecting with traditional visual tools, skills, methods, and craft is an equally important incubator, providing youth with a place to tinker, create, and make.
As every community evolves and grows there is always the struggle for studio space and exhibition venues and New City Arts has done a great deal to address these and related issues. It would be great to see new learning laboratories, or maker spaces, emerge via partnerships.
What is currently on your studio/work desk?
On the desk—tools, inspiration, and ideas. Comprised of jars of pencils and pencils; dried flowers, leaves, and a parrot’s feather; and piles of filled notebooks and sketchbooks.
In the studio—tools, inspiration, and finished prints. A litho press, flat files and table tops, walls of books, a book press, paper and ink compete for space downstairs and upstairs a computer and peripherals are surrounded by sketchbooks, found objects, and traditional drawing tools.
Anne Chesnut's aggregate prints, combining images and ideas, are constructed by digitally interweaving her traditional prints, drawings, and photographs with graphic renderings. The result, sometimes a solo, more often is a hand-sewn assemblage of prints. In the stitched prints, pieces are attached just as different images have been entwined to create something new from their patterns, colors, and textures. Simple objects found at home are her creative catalyst. The familiar, from shells to flowers and numbers to letters, are integrated with other references to create compositions that initially engage through immediate associations while alluding to more complex concepts that demand reflection.
A native Virginian, Anne Chesnut, lived and worked in New York City and southern Italy before moving to Charlottesville. After earning her M.F.A. from Yale University, Chesnut did post graduate work at the Studio School, the National Academy of Design, and was member of Robert Blackburn’s Printmaking Workshop in New York. She has exhibited in countless group and solo shows throughout the country and her work is in many national collections including Capital One, the Smithsonian, Arkansas State University’s Bradbury Gallery, Colby-Sawyer College’s Susan Harp Collection, as well as local collections such as UVA’s Children’s Hospital, Emily Couric Clinical Cancer Center, and the School of Nursing.
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