Chelsea Wong creates paintings, murals, and sculptures that share a graphically compressed, chromatically vivacious, urban energy. Her depictions of public spaces, architectural motifs, and figures in pairs and crowds are based on daily life in the Bay Area and L.A., deliberately honoring diversity, individualism, and community among a cross-section of society. The busy buzz of metropolitan neighborhoods for Wong is a source not only of ideas for works of art, but of joy, optimism, egalitarianism and shared experience. Wong’s newest work is on view in Channeling at New Image Art in West Hollywood through January 9.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
CHELSEA WONG: To me, being an artist involves a lot more than just making art. In addition to creating a body of work and establishing oneself, there is the administrative work, shows, sales and in general, being disciplined. It takes time and dedication to hone in on a vision. Despite attending art school and growing up with a paintbrush in my hand, it wasn’t until more recently when my practice outweighed my 9-to-5 job, did I really consider myself an artist.
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
I am a figurative painter and a storyteller. My work celebrates multicultural communities and champions inclusivity, highlighting diversity while envisioning a better future. My work makes people feel good; it puts hope and joy into the world.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
At points I dreamed about being a cultural anthropologist or a foreign diplomat. But I’m glad I’m an artist. In a way being an artist is like being a cultural anthropologist, and to work in the arts one must be a diplomat, but this way I just live for myself and I am grateful and fortunate it’s worked so far.
Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?
Yes, I did. I attend Parsons School of Design in NYC and completed my BFA at California College of Arts in Oakland. I loved creating then as I do now and encourage people to follow their passion and say yes to themselves when possible. Investing in yourself is a great way to make your dreams a reality.
When was your first show?
My BFA show at California College of the Arts. It was a good way to learn what a tsunami of effort it takes to have a show. I can’t look at that body of work now, though! It’s good I’ve come a long way since then.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show?
I am currently showing at New Image Art in West Hollywood. I love the programming at New Image and am excited about the body of work I have there. It’s optimistic and I think we all need that right now.
What artist living or dead would you most like to show with?
David Hockney, and we’d have a long chat about what’s in that crazy, gifted brain of his. Gotta love him.
Do you listen to music while you work? If so what?
I mostly listen to audiobooks in the studio but lately I’ve been listening to a lot of ‘60s-’70s rock and roll, country and folk. I make some weird mixes, think Patsy Cline, Captain Beyond, then Link Wray and Tim Buckley. I mostly listen to audiobooks though. I am a big fan of scaring myself and love Stephen King because his audiobooks are 40 hours long. When you paint as much as I do, you need a lot of listening material!
Website and social media handles, please!