Artist of the Week: Milano Chow

Milano Chow lives and works in Los Angeles. She received her BA in art history from Barnard College in 2009 and attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2013. She runs a publishing imprint called Oso Press.

What materials do you use in your work and what is your process like? Graphite pencil (Staedtler Lumograph), graphite powder, charcoal, india ink, acrylic paint. Process is pretty boring to describe in writing—to keep it short, I apply pencil and powder with different tools and gradually build up the contrasts.

What artists are you interested in right now? Florine Stettheimer, Pierre Bonnard, Richard Artschwager, John Wesley, Lucy McKenzie, Kerry James Marshall, The Vienna Secession.

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Lattice and Cane, 26 1/2 x 20 in, 2014, graphite on paper

How has your work developed within the past year? It has gotten flatter and more graphic. Maybe it’s about thinking of the work as building a “picture”, though I don’t consciously think of that while drawing. I’m a little looser and quicker. I can’t look at things from even 2-3 years ago—they look so fussy. I’m still figuring out the imagery and how form or style can be read as expressions of taste and authorship (or why I am drawn to the same objects and frames).

What’s your favorite thing about your city? The farmer’s markets—I go every Sunday. My staples are olive bread, avocados, citrus fruits, and fresh flowers.

Lattice Square, 24 x 24 in, 2013, graphite on paper

Lattice Square, 24 x 24 in, 2013, graphite on paper

What are your thoughts about the art scene in LA? To preface this answer, I grew up in LA, left for a few years in NY, then returned in 2011 and still feel more like an observer than a participant of any community. LA as an art scene is something that has come up in recent conversations with friends, mostly about adjusting from the social pace of the east coast. Many of them are frustrated by the isolation and the feeling that many artist circles are oriented around the schools. Personally I’m a bit of a loner, so I find it freeing to make work under the radar. If you are an artist considering moving here, there is affordable studio space and talented and bright people if you look for them, but everyone is in their own bubble.

What was the last exhibition you saw that stuck out to you? Tom of Finland at MOCA, shown with Bob Mizer’s photos and Tom of Finland’s reference photos that he had taken himself. It was my first time seeing his work in person. Not to sound so self-absorbed, but seeing the show felt like such a validation for the labor of drawing. The show was very inspiring—of course there’s the level of technique—but there was also an amazing sense of dedication and discipline. There is something about the intensity of his skill that works so well with the hypersexualized images. I want to see more!

Arch Window with Rose, 25 1/2 x 21 1/2 in, 2012, graphite on paper

Arch Window with Rose, 25 1/2 x 21 1/2 in, 2012, graphite on paper

What is your snack/beverage of choice when working in your studio? Lots of water. On healthy days, fruits, raw nuts, and rice crackers. On unhealthy days, Tapatio chips (which should not count as real food).

What are you really excited about right now? The Mike Kelley show coming to LA. Going to Vegas and Big Sur this spring.

Window View with Tulip, 30 x 22 in, 2012, graphite on paper

Window View with Tulip, 30 x 22 in, 2012, graphite on paper

If you hadn’t become an artist what do you think you’d be doing? Maybe studying to be a vet or pediatrician. Or architect?

Can you share one of the best or worst reactions you have gotten as a result of your work? The word “cute” is pretty bad, even as a passing comment. One critique that has always followed me was, “If you want to keep making elaborate high school drawings, that’s fine”—so I did…

Calla Lilies, 26 3/4 x 20 in, 2013, graphite and ink on paper

Calla Lilies, 26 3/4 x 20 in, 2013, graphite and ink on paper