Christy Powers is a New York based artist with a fascination for memory and nostalgia, reflected in her unique paintings. The artist illustrates socially vibrant scenes taken from personal and family archived photographs, whether this be banal everyday scenes or extravagant weddings. An element of mystery and captivation is weaved into her work by leaving the individuals faceless, to encourage the viewer to fill in the gaps with their own memories and to imitate loss of memory. Christy is idiosyncratic and refreshing in the field of contemporary painting, and we are pleased to have this sneak peak into her studio life.
Hi Christy, would you like to start us off by telling us when you first started creating art and how that evolved into becoming a professional artist?
I’ve been creating art since I was a kid. I think by the time I was in high school I knew it was what I wanted to pursue for my life. Also, my family had been photo engravers starting in 1901 through my early childhood and my grandmother was a painter so I think it’s also in my blood.
I’ve always been an avid worker. When I was younger, I was always working in my sketchbooks. Once I went to university, I shifted into being at the studio most of the time which was lovingly called a “studio rat” by my friends. Then, I maintained an almost daily studio practice at night while working day jobs after finishing up my MFA. Over time I was fortunate to be able to take less and less “day jobs” and have my art practice become my career.
To be fair, scurrying around the studio is an accurate description of the last 20 years.
What about the project interested you and why did you choose to be involved in The Other Avatars project?
As an artist it’s been hard to escape hearing about NFTs this past year but as a painter I was unsure of how my work would fit in. When Saatchi approached me to be part of this project it was such a wonderful opportunity to learn. I trust them and their belief that my work would fit into this project. It’s been so incredibly exciting to see all the different approaches people have taken given the same brief. I also love the idea that instead of an algorithm deciding traits in an avatar project, artists were creating their own work and each artist is a trait category, bringing a little analog to the digital realm.
Can you tell us a bit about how you approached this project?
I was brainstorming different ways to approach this project and it was exciting and a bit brain bending at first. I was focused on trying to interpret Van Gogh in a contemporary context. I’d also been doing Icons for the artist support pledge, which definitely influenced my thinking on my avatars:
What I love about his work is his intensity and his ability to convey beauty and devastation and everything in between. Everything is always turned all the way up and that radiates out from his canvases. It made me think about a quote from a Nicholas Hornby book where he talks about how you can just hear the pain in Nick Drake’s voice when he sings. So I started coming up with a musical muse for each self portrait. Sometimes including lyrics, references to cover art, I wanted it to be a bit of a game for the viewer to figure out who each piece is referencing.
I created each one individually and used multiple Van Gogh self portraits overall.
I love the inclusion of lyrics on the actual avatar! What do you think the most challenging part of the creative experience was for you?
It was definitely the initial part of the project and figuring out how to make sure my paintings checked off specific traits. Once I got that sorted, it was so much fun just trying to come up with imagery that goes with different lyrics or an artist.
What would you want a collector to know about your work?
I hope that they engage holistically with the Other Avatars and engage with all the artistic approaches they find here. When a collector sees my work, I’m excited to have them see my unique approach and I hope to have them become deeper engaged with my larger practice. I mean you can have both a collection of NFTS and a nice analog painting on your wall!
Also, I hope they have fun figuring out the reference in each piece.
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