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Chloe Wise isn’t buying into consumerism, and she isn’t eating up what society is trying to feed her either. Instead, the 26-year-old Canadian-born artist is starting conversations about how we digest culture, the differences between the male and female gaze, gendered foods, and the misconceptions and trends in various subcultures worldwide. Through her new book Literally Me, which shows and discusses her creative journey thus far, we learned that Wise, now with five solo shows under her belt, is examining issues much more deeply than her rampant social media following might suggest. To learn more about her projects, and about being a headstrong woman in the art world today, we spoke to the artist in a New York café.
WHITEWALL: Tell us about your fifth solo show, “Cats not fighting is a horrible sound as well,” at Division Gallery in Montreal, which features some of your food sculptures.
CHLOE WISE: I’m really focusing on Italian food and authenticity through sculptures of food that are hyperrealistic. I’m examining different ideas of worth, value, and authenticity, and using fake food to talk about real art. It’s a really interesting thing when I think about things like simulacra and the simulations of how we don’t even know real from fake, especially right now. For me, Olive Garden is a really good example of a complete simulation—a true and hyperreal simulation. It purports to be authentic Italian food, but utilizing the tropes of authenticity in terms of Italy. They’ve strategized this way how to use a stereotype to verify authenticity, so they’re capitalizing off of culture’s culinary ethnicity. That in itself is economically bizarre in advertising. To me, it’s this perfect realm that actually represents what we’re living in, and it can help us think through and be critical of the enjoyment of those things.
WW: And you’re not only an artist delving into the female form, but you’re a woman doing that. So how does being a woman portraying women affect you?
CW: I think that being a woman is both a blessing and a curse in terms of the way that my art is read. With being a woman, people have preconceived notions when they see me or hear me talk, but all of these preconceptions do not necessarily add up to the way that the work that I’m making is going to where I want it to go, like institutions or museums. The work that I’m making, if a man was making it, it would be full-blown Kunsthalle Museum. There’s a gender inequality, and a wage gap for our work. But because there are lower expectations for female intelligence and talent, when you’re a woman working extremely hard and making art that is pushing boundaries, it’s more surprising.
Women are the future. We’re so powerful, sensitive, and intelligent, and we can talk about it together. Being a woman is something that I will never let be something that is not the best blessing I’ve ever gotten.
WW: Tell us about how your bread bags became an ironic trend.
CW: I made the Louis Vuitton and the Fendi Baguette sort of as a critique of how advertising has this type of authority—and how we understand value and determine status and luxury based on logos, advertising language, and the aura that brands and designers bestow upon mundane consumer objects using the mysticism of commodity. Utilizing the funny algorithm or idea that if this had, say, a Chanel logo on it, it would cost more, I started putting logos on these ridiculous things to say that trends are arbitrary based on nothing. We’re being fed advertising.
It became this overnight sensation, and when I explained that it was me that made it, the art world was like, “Oh, wow! So funny. We get the joke,” and the fashion world said the same thing. It was hilarious the way that I criticized the fashion world and how they unknowingly came to appreciate or celebrate a critique of itself. It was kind of like, “You’re giving me an authoritarian voice because I made fun of your authoritarian voice?” [Laughs]
WW: What is your self-proclaimed responsibility within the art world?
CW: My responsibility to myself is to allow myself to do the things that actually make me feel happy, fulfilled, critical—exploring something and moving toward something. I have to eat, I have to make art, and I have to laugh. To the people, I feel like I have a personal responsibility to help bring up this conversation in a way that’s not stuck in an echo chamber. I think the art world lacks the distance-reaching conversational skills that mainstream realms like music and comedy have. Art’s purpose is to bring up these radical conversations, be political, and change minds, and explore these difficult topics, but it’s only doing it for the people that have access to the education to have the vocabulary to understand the press release in this fancy gallery that you have to cab uptown to go to. It’s elite.
The more I can make my work be nomadic and confuse its way to getting into the vision of the accidental audience, not the intentional art audience (who already has a degree), the better. My responsibility is to captivate them in a way that doesn’t make them feel like they’re being attacked, or that I’m didactically educating them, but rather use humor and the beauty of art and the relatability of having your persona on the Internet to captivate an audience and slowly but surely work them into humanizing themselves—their plight. If I can tickle the mainstream world to maybe get a little critical and look into some stuff, but also make work that also has much more profound interaction with the art world, and also maintain some standard of beauty and keep going, then I’m doing my job.
This interview was published in the spring 2017 issue of Whitewall, out now.