Jul 26, 2017 8:07PM

Chloe Wise On Her New Work, Female Ripeness And Going Mainstream

All you can eat.
If there's one thing in life that is guaranteed to make you forget your troubles, it's a Friday night trip to Pizza Hut for the all-you-can-eat buffet. I can still hear the bowls of neon jelly, half-melted ice cream, and too-hard miniature marshmallows (which I then considered the most gourmet garnish in existence) calling from the more joyful recesses of my youth.  
Artist Chloe Wise's childhood trips to Pizza Hut were somewhat more sophisticated, as between mouthfuls, she and her mum took the time to draw portraits of one another on their napkins. Wise showed an early dedication to art despite the gastronomical delights of a fast food smorgasbord that would surely distract most other children. 
"When I was in school I would stay in at lunch playing with pastels and doing portrait stuff," says Wise, sitting in her new studio in New York's East Village. It's an expansive space not too dissimilar from that fantasy-level buffet, dressed with Wise's sculptures of saucy avocados, solid green martinis and oozy lasagnes that required the study (and inevitable consumption) of countless real lasagnes. Thousands of graffitied napkins and lunch-hour drawings are manifest in the lush oil paintings that hang around the space. 
Wise's latest work borrows from art history's two most prominent genres — the still life and the nude. In one painting, the model Ashley Smith reclines on a picnic blanket, naked and sultry-faced with gloved hands cradling a bottle of FIJI Water and a can of tomatoes. The painting is staunchly traditional in every other way, but these products create a momentary glitch wherein the notions of gallery space and Instagram feed intermingle. The artisan water and ripe tomatoes, like the nude figure who presents them, promise to quench our constant thirst for consumption, if only momentarily.
"The still life is sort of this memento mori of the transience of life and the idea that all organic, natural objects will wilt and rot and no longer be ripe," Wise explains. Her work draws parallels with the cultural symbols of advertising where, she says, "desire is capitalised on or projected through that moment of ripeness — whether that's a glint on a diamond or an apple with a little dew drop on it or someone's cheekbone with a highlight on it because they look really young and sexy and sweaty. Those are indicators and signifiers of that moment before something goes away, and that thing is what we're always chasing." It's also about the female body, aging and decay, the semiotics of desire, the life and death cycle of food and, by extension, the life and death cycle of art, fashion and trends, Wise says in a flurry.
Wise not only speaks at a rapid pace, but also paints and lives at the same borderline-psycho rate. She's currently showing at four galleries, has just released a book, and, when we meet, is planning art fair appearances and a Paris solo show. "If I could clone myself and be painting right now and also be talking to you and also be going to a show and then also be climbing a mountain and checking out the foliage, I would be doing it all at the same time," she says with a laugh, although she is clearly not joking.
The cover of Wise's book features a painting of her holding her book, holding her book, holding her book — you get the idea. It's a kind of call back to one of her earliest projects — Literally Me — a series of "selfie" self-portraits that examined the gendering of internet self-representation in a LOL way. "Self-deprecation is part of my work, for sure, and also just talking about [the idea] that we interact with our image and our self and our work as this over-the-top, self-involved, constant flattening of images where it's like this immediate scroll," she says. "This endless, immediate, infinite scroll."
Apart from this work, Wise asserts that her art doesn't have anything to do with the internet other than the fact that it's on the internet. Instead, it becomes about the "merry-go-round or hamster wheel of perpetual want ... [which is] beautiful, but it's also really dark. Because on one hand that makes us aim higher and climb mountains and reach for something, but it also makes us never feel satisfaction and never appreciate what we have." 
Wise and I meet at her studio the week following Donald Trump's inauguration and, for her, things are starting to shift from "can't get no satisfaction" to "count your blessings". "The thing that's making me really feel hopeful is watching the way that my friends have stepped up to the plate and been like, ‘Fine, okay, we have to speak now, we have to get together and we have to work and mobilise and organise,'" she says with characteristic pep. Wise is referring to the open-minded artists who appear in her work; people like Hari Nef, Paloma Elsesser and India Menuez — those who live in the New York art scene echo chamber, a place that was previously shielded from the politics of discrimination we're now facing. "I'm trying really hard to talk to people who aren't my amazing, cool, awesome, understanding, totally progressive, intersectional friends," she says. "We have created our own bubbles because of the algorithms of Facebook and Instagram, where things pop up to the front, and that's not actually a democracy any more because no longer is everything seen in an equal way. Rather, you're creating a bubble of things that you prioritise as true, and that's not what truth is."  
"I want my work to be accessible in a way that I didn't want it to be accessible before," Wise continues. "I'll go on, I don't know, the Today Show or some shit. I'll do it!" Like the mainstream appeal of a Pizza Hut buffet, she's set on creating something for the masses. "Something that invites viewers from different age groups and points of view. As opposed to only targeting a specific art world, which is one of privilege and education." 
Wise's world — all sweaty fruit, scattered caesar salad and suggestive still lifes — is about inviting viewers into relatable, human scenarios. "It's not particularly divisive," she says. And that's something she believes the art world needs to be increasingly wary of. "Artists are having to face the harsh reality that while art is this avant-garde, really intellectual, super highly acclaimed venue or realm of creation, if we're not reaching people who don't have a master's degree, then how are we changing the world?"
Text: Lucy Jones
Photography: Colin Leaman 
Hair & Makeup: Jenn Blum
Originally published in Oyster #110