Alex Chitty was born in Miami, Florida and currently works and resides in Chicago, Il. She received her BFA from Smith College and her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Outside of her studio practice, Chitty is an Instructor in the Printmedia Department at SAIC and an Artist Guide at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.
How did your interest in art begin? I’ve always drawn and made things, but my interest in art, as a practice and a career, actually began in a biology laboratory in college. I was doing an internship at a coral reef research laboratory in Palau, Micronesia. I worked as an underwater photographer to help to collect and document marine invertebrate species (corals, sponges, etc.) for cancer research. I was good at the collecting and documenting aspects of the work, but my brain is structured to build metaphors and ask questions rather than establish absolutes and solidify specific answers. So, I went into art. When I look back, I realize that my jobs then and now are philosophically aligned, but the materials are very different. In that lab, my job was essentially to compare and analyze an organism’s form (it’s physical appearance or its species type) alongside the potential of its content (what chemicals it might contain and how those chemicals can be used by us). Even now, my work seems to be very much about our perception of the relationship between form and content.
What materials do you use in your work and what is your process like? I use a combination of found and made objects, materials, and images. I’m often attracted to objects or images because of the way color or light is used, or because of the references made by the form itself, or potentially because of the specific cultural histories embodied within it. Often I have other objects or images in mind, and I’m curious about the influence they will have on one another when paired. When I pull something into my studio, I don’t have a specific idea of how it will be used; that part happens later. The process is influenced a great deal by my research and by the objects or images gathered, but more often than not, I end up translating them into sculptural or photo-based objects and images.
What kinds of things are influencing your work right now? The Arts and Crafts movement.The history of nomenclature. Image search engines. Physics, particularly the study of amorphous solids. Nicolas Bourriaud’s essay, “Postproduction.” Commercial window displays and museum display techniques. Interior Design trends. Oddities and beauties from the natural world. Photoshop as an extension of the hand and mind.
What artists are you interested in right now? Isa Genskin. Elad Lassry. Charlotte Posenenske. Erin Shirreff. Martin Boyce. Lucus Blalock. Roe Ethridge. Haim Stieibach. Constantin Brancussi. Marcel Duchamp. Amanda Ross-Ho. Nathan Hylden. Wade Guyton. Carol Bove. Jason Dodge. Katharina Grosse. Rosemarie Trockel.
If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go and why? Peru. My mother has always wanted to see Machu Picchu, but I think she might have given up on the idea. I would love to take her there.
What’s your favorite thing about Chicago? My quality of life improved dramatically when I moved from New York to Chicago because here there is a fair balance of work, cost of living, time and space. But more than anything, it’s the people that make this place so good.
What are your thoughts about the art scene in Chicago? Chicago’s art scene is rich, lively, and varied and has great physical space, talent, and intellect. Yet, our scene seems marked by the weight of it’s own history and by the deficit left by what culture-makers here have imagined possible.
What do you do when you’re not working on art? Figure out how to cook things. Clean up the endless messes I’ve made. Go on adventures. Write “To Do” lists. Garden. Camp. Swim. Spend good times with good people. Teach or go to work. Listen to Podcasts. Read. Snuggle. Loose myself on the Internet.
Any current or upcoming shows we should know about? I recently had some new work in a show in the west wing of Corbett vs. Dempsey gallery. I have some pieces in a group show, It’s not me, It’s you, at Heaven Gallery as well as a group winter exhibition meant to be viewed only in the snow called No Show at the West Pilsen Sculpture Garden. In early summer I am in a two person show at Roots and Culture.
What was the last exhibition you saw that stuck out to you? The exhibits that stick with me are usually the ones I don’t completely unravel or grasp while I’m experiencing them. I saw a Katharina Grosse exhibit at Mass MoCa last year.
The space is stunning, but when I saw her exhibit, I kept thinking, “this is like going to the moon,” but I have no idea what it could actually look like on the moon. And so I thought “Why am I justifying my current reality by comparing it to a reality I’ve never experienced?” I may or may not have pocketed two little spray-painted rocks from the back corner of the room. Many of the smaller pieces in that installation could probably have gone missing and it would not have disturbed the gravity of it all, but even still, those two little fragments managed to capture the entirety of both the exhibit and her practice. I often return back to the thoughts and questions raised by my experience in that exhibit.