Chloe Wise On Fake Food, Vulnerability, And The Future

Blouin Art Info


Whoever said sloppy, saucy, urethane-heavy foodstuffs and quasi-romantic portraiture can’t hang together has never met Chloe Wise. Her latest solo exhibition, “Cats Not Fighting Is A Horrible Sound As Well,” on view at Galerie Division’s Montreal location through January 14, is vast enough to include self-portraits and huge slabs of gnarly fake lasagne. I spoke with the Canadian artist about Gerhard Richter eggplants, being a salad kween, and Justin Trudeau’s sex appeal.


Many of your recent paintings pair young women with various produce items (carrots, what might be bok choy) as well as Haribo candy and Fancy Feast cat food. What do you think the most erotic foods actually are? Are specifically phallic foods, like an eggplant, automatically “more sexy,” or can a food be “incredibly sexy” even if its form doesn’t visually refer to any sort of genitalia whatsoever?


First of all: half-naked or half-clothed, however you want to look at it, doesn't necessarily have to imply the erotic. Secondly, not all of my subjects are young women; but I do paint feminized humans. Maybe they’re feminized because they are visibly or implicitly queer, or maybe because they are presented alongside food, in poses reminiscent of yearbook photos, classical paintings, or fashion ads, invoking an artifice that is linked to femininity? I think your question also addresses something my work seeks to address, which is that the human eye tends to project gender onto inanimate objects, namely foods. The fact that certain foods carry inherently gendered connotations is actually very funny and bizarre. The idea that there is a morality to foods (some foods are deemed "sinful" while others are deemed "super") also feels parallel.


The history of images of women next to or holding food carries with it the connotations of an offering, a bounty, a harvest -- something consumable by the viewer -- and often the women portrayed were seen as sexual objects, "artist muses", etceteras. My work has so many layers of artifice -- fake food; clearly Photoshopped backgrounds; super shiny glossy skin; obviously performed poses; an insincerity that might also be sincere, as echoed in my performance of self -- but I think all of those layers are intended to potentially confuse the viewer into realizing their own entrenched associations to women and food. So your question sort of sums up the very thing my work would aim to playfully dismantle…


Anyway, let's replace “sexy” with “attractive.” I have a very sensory and visual relationship to foods, as a hyperactive painter and a closeted foodie. Right now I'm just completely emotionally dumbfounded by the colors of some fruits, namely papaya, peaches, and tomatoes. Just, wow. I think they are very attractive but it's not because of their inherent genitalia-esque-ness, at all, mostly because I think they're just flippin' beautiful, like flowers. But the eggplant is definitely an attractive guy, especially those multicolor 'graffiti' ones (whoever named them that instead of something cute like ‘Gerhard Richter eggplant’ missed an opportunity IMO).


Speaking of food: your sculptures have always turned my stomach (in a good way). They look like the soggy aftermath of a decadent dinner party. Also: lots of carbs. So I was wondering, What’s the last real meal you cooked for yourself at home?


Ooooh. It's also funny that you mention that my work is sexy yet simultaneously disgusting, because I think that also proves my point, that we project descriptors that pertain to the body onto foods, and treat them both as consumable things. A plate of food is very pleasing to the eye before being broken into by our grubby little paws and the cutlery we use to dismantle the previously pristine composition.. Similarly the body becomes abject with time and age (flowers wilt, etceteras). There is a definite attraction-repulsion at work with both food and sex and almost everything.


But to answer your question: I'm a salad kween. Most recent thing I cooked myself was not so much cooked as it was.. Tossed. However, I get really into cooking squashes .


You’re a Canadian, which is a nice thing. Are you confused by the high percentage of American women who want to sleep with Justin Trudeau? I think current polls confirm that 97.5% of women between the age of 18 and 65 have this fantasy. But I have a feeling that many of these women have never heard Trudeau speak, because there’s definitely something about his voice that dampens any libidinal ruminations. Thoughts?


As we now know, polls are, as the Giant Cheeto who will be running the U.S. would say, WRONG. However, I do believe the aforementioned statistics to be true. Based on looks, I would potentially French (Canadian) kiss Trudeau. He is very ripe for the makeout when I hear him talk about raising his sons as feminists. However in the wake of recent events he has been pretty much a pushover regarding President-Elect Piglet and I do not want to make out with anyone who normalizes the fact that America has elected a racist dictator to office. Trudeau attempting to be on chill terms with Trump makes me repeal my previous makeout comments.


You have a terrific sense of humor and also are not a jerk. Why hasn’t the art world ruined you yet?


That's so so nice and probably true and is likely because I am Canadian so I was raised looking people in the eyes and really really liking them because they too were Canadian and looked me in the eyes and so on. But, um, I'm really happy as a person (I mean, never have I felt the deep sadness I feel regarding the catastrophically horrific thing America voted on last Tuesday, but, aside from that) so I think that it will take a lot for the art world to ruin me.. STAY TUNED!


In your opinion, what sort of drugs should younger artists take in order to improve their careers, time in the studio, ideas, and so on?


Adderall XR. And I hear great things about Biotin.


Your work often exploits very classical draftsmanship for absurd aims. Can you tell me a bit about the teachers who taught you how to paint, and what they think of you now?


I learned mostly everything I know about painting from Kris Knight and Stephen Appleby Barr, two amazing Canadian portrait painters who I look up to and who mentored me. In school I actually did not learn too much about technical painting; I was encouraged to "throw my painting on the ground" or "pour water on it" which I did not appreciate because I really wanted to paint skillfully and I didn't really understand how to negotiate conceptual work with draftsmanship. I feel as though I'm learning more about that balance every day, but ignoring the aims of something being "conceptual" does make it have an absurdity that feels more honest and enjoyable. I feel like in utilizing classical draftsmanship, or at least attempting to, my work is very vulnerable. It's not this minimal work that doesn't care what you think of it: it's sensitive, it's labor-intensive, and it feels feelings.


What website would you guesstimate that you visit more than any other?


eBay, in search of the Perfect Patterned Pants


What’s the stupidest thing anyone has ever said to you about your work?


Don't get me started...People thought my bagel bag was a real wearable bag (don't blame them, but still). A lot of people e-mailed me telling me they are bloggers and asking to wear it to a music festival. I also hate when people refer to my work as "creative," but it's okay when my dad says it.


I recently saw a spread from Elle magazine about the apartment of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. Their house has a photo series by John Baldessari, and a huge work by Mariah Robertson hanging over their bed. This got me thinking about how shitty it must be to be a good artist whose work ends up in the hands of total monsters. If you could anonymously curse the apartment of Jared and Ivanka with really awful art, what would you choose?


I would get all three editions of "Him" by Maurizio Cattelan (the sculpture of Hitler on his knees) and place them at the foot of their largest full-length mirror so they have to see Hitler faces when they look in the mirror, although they probably already do, and Ivanka must be used to her dad's face by now, although I don’t know how that's possible.


Can you tell me about some early-early work that you don’t exhibit anymore and that you don’t include on your website because it’s too cringe-inducing or embarrassing?


Yeah, come to my parents’ house, I'll give you the tour! I did a big big big ink drawing of a deer on top of a collage of something that seems to be note paper, and called it "Deer Diary"...Sigh.


What’s next for the human being known as Chloe Wise?


Honestly, just trying to make it through today without spontaneously combusting ;-).


Chloe Wise’s “Cats Not Fighting Is A Horrible Sound As Well” is on view at Galerie Division in Montreal through January 14, 2017.