Christie Chew-Wallace says of oil paint, “It is a tough paint, and I like to paint tough.” Her unabashed tenacity in personality translates through her work into starkly raw, vibrant abstraction that speaks to the unapologetic strength of the human spirit. Pieces like Anthropological Red reveal a complexity of content in the array of thickly layered jewel-toned hues. Celebratory and calamitous, alluring yet slightly pandemoniac, the work relays an uncompromising vivacity that urges authentic feeling in the viewer.
In contrast to Red‘s robust color scheme, The Dull Flame of Desire utilizes soft flesh tones and textured punctuations of red-orange, deep purple and sky blue brushstrokes. The warm beige color that engulfs the majority of the canvas may articulate the landscape of a soft beach or a warm body. A rust-colored, abstracted flame form is present, illustrated with expressive and mysterious sensitivity. It is obscured and softened, though its strength is evident with burning embers.
Chew-Wallace’s Blood Alcohol Limit in Three Fingers marries alluring romanticism with a threat of risk. The piece is geometrically and texturally engaging with monochromatic finger forms harmoniously interrupting the richly vibrant ruby tones of the background. Are these fingers fondling a cocktail or do they grasp something more sinister? Is this a splattering of cranberry juice from a spilled drink or a menacing image of spilled blood from a late night gone awry? Chew-Wallace plays with these tensions between desire and danger, the atmosphere of lustful and chic nightlife versus the potential debauchery of inebriated mistakes.
At the essence of these works is a raw honesty and strength of the human condition. Living in Chicago requires a tenacity against brutal cold winters and a durability of spirit amidst urban dangers and desires.
Fortunately, Chew-Wallace paints tough.