Jun 17, 2014 4:00PM

Interview: Artist Chloe Wise On Nipples, Drake and Clip Art

We talk to Petra Collins-endorsed 'Jew-Pop' artist.

The artwork of Chloe Wise initially caught my attention with 'QUIT PLAYIN' GAMES WITH MY NIPS', a cubic installation adorned with disembodied pierced nipples, carefully sculpted from latex with near-disarming realism. Also because it referenced the Backstreet Boys. The New York-based artist brings a turbo-Gen Y approach to theme and medium (selfies, Blingee vibes, the ClipArt aesthetic and Normcore-themed tampon sculptures all appear in her work), appealing to photographer and wisdom-wrangler Petra Collins, who selected Chloe's work to appear in Brooklyn exhibition Pussy Pat. We got on email with Chloe to talk nipples, Drake, self-consciousness and her former life as a bikini model.

Suz Tucker: First up, tell me a bit about your background and how you became an artist. What kind of formal training did you do?
Chloe Wise: I've been identifying as an artist since I was an actual baby. I was making drawings and little books and pastel portraits at literally 5 years old. I should find those... But I went to school at Concordia University in Montreal in studio arts and art history, where I focused on painting. Since school I have assisted a number of artists who have really taught me a lot.

Do you have a specific term for your 'genre' of work? Like if someone said "what kind of art do you make?" how would you answer them?
Mixed-Media-Canadian-Jew-Brat-Comedy-Art? Weird-Shit? Cute-Shit? JewPop? IDFK 3.

There are a lot of LOLs in your work, but (and this could just be me projecting) your work also comments on issues around female sexuality, Jewish identity, internet culture, society's perception of the female body, consumerism - the list goes on. In your creative process, what usually comes first? Do you start with a LOL concept and take it from there, or vice versa?
I think that the two facets, the LOL factor and the societal critique or internal meaning, tend to manifest themselves simultaneously. The way I internalise the things I see around me is through a lens of humor, where I'm constantly laughing at myself, my life, the art world, consumerism, and finding ways to visually translate the way I see these things into the work. I deal with the aforementioned issues and themes - social-political identity in this digital paradigm, consumerism, the commodification of individuality, the perils of being a self-deprecating Canadian-Jewess in a Vlog-saturated landscape - regardless of what form I'm working in.

'Pierced P'ep'es', assorted nipple piercings, latex paint on silicone on Domino's deluxe pizza (2013)

What artists - or people in general - influenced you most growing up and who are they now?
Growing up I was influenced by traditional painters like Waterhouse, Sargent and Caravaggio, with a very heavy and intense love for Tim and Eric. I would still say that most of my awkward sense of humor and interest in the intersections between art and comedy stem from Tim and Eric. I recently met Eric and like, died. Other artists that have and continue to inspire me are Urs Fischer, Ryan Trecartin, Pierre et Gilles, Claes Oldenburg, Donatella Versace, and Drake.

Talk me through your affinity with Drake...
I mean, what do I have to explain here? Drake is like, the angel. He's the Sensitive Canadian Rapper that dreams are made of, plus he seems hilarious, AND he's Jewish and makes bar mitzvah jokes like all the time. What's not to love? We have so much in common, why aren't we friends (yet)?

I was first introduced to your work through "QUIT PLAYIN' GAMES WITH MY NIPS". Have you noticed Female Nipple Hysteria seems to be peaking as we speak? What’s your take on the nipple situation?
Nipples are nipples, let's chill with the censorship. It's boring. I made that piece because I wanted to deal with taboos and the "forbidden" (working with the themes I had dabbled in when referencing Kosherness in my Jewish star pieces) and nipples (extra points for pierced) have always had this stigma attached to them. I like to elicit a response in people when they see my work, and there are definitely some laughs and opinions to be had when faced with a giant pierced nipple dice, amirite?


'QUIT PLAYIN' GAMES WITH MY NIPS', latex paint, nipple rings, silicone on MDF (2013)

You — as in: your likeness and your first person 'voice' — feature regularly as the subject of your work. Social media and the whole culture of selfies obviously informs a lot of your aesthetic and your subject matter. Are you a self-conscious person?
Yes and no. I'm extremely comfortable in my stupid tan chunky annoying amazing horrific skin, but self-conscious in the sense that I'm self aware; I can identify myself as a narcissist, a participant in selfie culture, and this self broadcasting tendency which has become so normalised by my demographic through platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr and Youtube. I love to make fun of myself, and in doing so, attempt to subtly critique, but mostly laugh with, myself and my generation's modes of self representation.


In our emails you told me about a series you want to do on some more photographs of you. Can you reveal anything about that project? [Ed note: Suz stumbled across the aforementioned pics from a website called 'Extra Mustard' after doing a Chloe Wise Google Image search]
Okay so Extra Mustard is Sports Illustrated's daily site where they post tacky off-brand bikini babes as well as sports news etc. And unfortunately, and unbeknownst to some, I used to be a tacky, off-brand bikini model as a baby teen - which I even thought was funny back then, too. This, in addition to all the bad modelling jobs teenage me undertook, will forever haunt my Google Image results. This is another facet of my constant self representation in my work. The images that we are 'tagged' in, so to speak, will be ingrained in the Internet's memory forever, and our internet personas, however they may be curated and presented, can obscure the line between the perception of a person IRL and online. Anyway, I think it's important to own the embarrassing things, be honest, and laugh it off. I plan on making a series of works that reappropriate these images. Like, how funny are those pictures? My eyes are Photoshopped super light brown and I'm soooo tan. lololol.

An exclusive sneak peek

Final question: how much time do you spend browsing ClipArt files? Tonnes. Whenever I make ANYTHING, at some point I will have to google the clip art image of that thing. ClipArt, like emoji, is a great representation of how integral visuals are for conveying a message. They are a simplified form of a given thing and they are so unpretentious. I want to make a ClipArt of Drake.

'Someone Either Threw Out or Stole This Self Portrait, Entitled "Portrait of the Artist in an Imaginary Tank Top", so Now it Only Exists, To My Knowledge, in This Hypothetical DigiGallery' oil painting and photoshop collage (2013)

All art works/photos by Chloe Wise