In our behind the canvas features we strive to bring you stories of artists, collectors, and innovators in the art space. This week we had the opportunity to connect with the driving force behind the InFocus Photo Exhibit, artist, photographer, author, Alexis Marie Chute.
AP. Give us a quick bio or background on yourself. Where did you grow up? What or who inspired you?
AMC. I grew up in Edmonton where I joke that I was an artist from the womb. Tucked away in my parent’s basement, I worked diligently in my makeshift art studio. Even back then I was a multi-medium and mixed-media artist, “painting” with make-up and nail polish, and using real flowers in my creative compositions. I remember blowing through film in bulk in my little point and shoot camera. I am very thankful that my mom never chastised me. In fact, my mom is one of the people that inspired me then – and now. I began working as a professional photographer while still in high school and went on to get my Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting and photography from the University of Alberta. All the while, I was exhibiting my work and receiving all kinds of awards and distinctions, like being named an “Emerging Canadian Photographer” by Photo Life Magazine and a “Top 40 Under 40” by Avenue Magazine. I was also the Artist-in-Residence at Harcourt House Artist Run Centre for a year, working on a deeply personal and universal project called “The Quiet Rebuild” about the resiliency of the human spirit after struggle. Writing has also always been a primary creative outlet for me, amongst the visual, and I chose to get my Masters of Fine Art in Creative Writing from Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. That is where I edited my memoir, Expecting Sunshine: A Journey of Grief, Healing and Pregnancy After Loss, which is published by She Writes Press and will hit the bookshelves this April 2017.
AP. How would you describe what you do? Why do you do it?
AMC. I make things and tell stories. That states it simply, although what I actually make is quite varied, yet interconnected. I make paintings, fine art photographs, books, exhibitions, documentary films, conduct social research, and present at conferences around the world. I am motivated by meaningful stories. Even in my abstract paintings, there is a feeling of mindfulness and hope I wish to impart on viewers. Great art – and great writing – is transformative for the person making it and also for the community where it is shown or read, and, ultimately, on whole groups of people and culture in general. I love exploring the innate desire in individuals, and society, to create, and also how the creative process itself can heal and help people become their fullest selves.
AP. What project(s) are you currently working on?
AMC. This question has a long answer and will betray the fact that I am a workaholic! Typically, I always have multiple projects on the go. Right now I am preparing a new collection of paintings about joy for an exhibition at The Glenrose Hospital. I am working on an artsy documentary film, called Expecting Sunshine: The Truth About Pregnancy After Loss, which is a visual exposé to pair with my book. I am also planning new shoots for “The Quiet Rebuild” as I have about ten people waiting on me to capture their conceptual portrait. I should mention that these folks found out about my project through social media and volunteered – which is pretty cool. And, finally, I am working away at InFocus Photo Exhibit & Award…
AP. Tell us about InFocus. What is it all about? Can people purchase works?
AMC. InFocus Photography Exhibition and Award was birthed one warm summer night in 2014. My husband and fellow creative, Aaron Chute, and I saw a need for an exhibition that celebrated photography created by Canadians. We started small in 2015, with our first exhibit at Harcourt House showing the best photography from Edmontonians. The next year, the show was hosted by dc3 Art Projects and exhibited innovative photography by Albertans. Finally, in our third year, 2017, we welcomed submissions from photographers all across Canada. The show this year, February 7-28, will be mounted in the gorgeous space at The Front Gallery. And yes, all the photographs are for sale! The mission of InFocus is to promote and exhibit innovative, thoughtful, and provocative photography created by contemporary Canadian image-makers. It has been my privilege to witness the stunning evolution of some local photographers, while also strengthening the dialoged with new voices and seasoned pros in the medium. The theme for our 2017 exhibit is “The Future,” which the photographers responded to with their submissions, offering their perspectives on culture, nature, and what’s to come both with photography itself and them as creators. This year we also have the second instalment of our Vistek sponsored InFocus People’s Choice Award, where the public can vote once a day for their favourite photographer or image. I will be giving a curator talk at the opening reception, on Thursday February 9, announcing the People’s Choice Award winner and discussing “The Future.” Another new piece of programming we have this year is our InFocus portfolio reviews. These will take place Friday, February 10 at The Front Gallery. Anyone can participate and show their images to the four reviewers to receive helpful feedback. The reviewers include noteworthy, award-winning photographers and educators: Larry Louie, Curtis Trent, Akemi Matsubuchi, and yours truly. Photographers may register online. My vision is that InFocus will cement itself within the annual creative calendar of this country. I am passionate about photography and love calling attention to amazing photographers and their work. Our call for submissions for our 2018 exhibit will go out this spring.
AP. Who is your favourite creative person? Why?
AMC. I have so many favourite creative people! One person I do want to give public props to is my artsy friend Erika Breen. She yarn-bombs trees in our neighbourhood and makes the most beautiful birds by needle felting a material called roving. Erika is all about our creative tribe and she really gets me. When it was my birthday, she left a gold-painted dinosaur wearing a tiny party hat at my front door.
AP. What is your favourite album of all time?
AMC. I love Alicia Keys, Girl on Fire.
AP. If you didn’t have to work what would you do with your time?
AMC. If I didn’t have to work I bet I would be doing much of the same things that I am doing right now, though in a much warmer climate. Travel is so quintessential to my creative process. If I was free of all responsibilities, I would be writing on the edge of the ocean, painting in the mountains, and eating at a table set on the streets of Europe – all with my camera around my neck, of course. And, most important to me, the people I love would be at my side. Now that would be the life!
AP. What is your favourite journey?
AMC. My favourite journey is the one I am on right now.
AP. Do you have a favourite piece you have personally created? What is it?
AMC. I have a huge painting that hangs in my living room. It is an abstracted mountain landscape made from acrylic paint and many different kinds of paper. I painted it on raw canvas and embraced paint drips. Because of this, the sky looks like it’s raining. There are subtle shimmery golds throughout. My family have begged me never to sell it.
AP. What are your thoughts on the influence of fashion and music on visual arts?
AMC. I love creativity in all forms. Just like I’ve been a proponent for photography as art, I believe the same about fashion and music. It’s the ultimate creative mash-up when all these things come together. This is one reason I am excited to be delving into filmmaking, because it is the amalgamation of so many artistic expressions.
AP. Who is your favourite author?
AMC. Reading fuels me and keeps me sane in a beautifully busy, yet rewarding, life. Some of my favourite authors include Jonathan Safran Foer, Brooke Davis, Jen Sincero, and Patti Smith (who is also a musician), and that is just to name very few.
AP. Where do you go for inspiration?
AMC. Foreign cities. The ocean. The mountains. My office. My art studio. Art galleries. The movies. For a nap. Into the pages of books.
AP. What is your greatest achievement in life so far?
ACM. All four of my babies; Hannah, Zachary, Eden and Luca. My masterpieces!
AP. What is your favourite colour?
AP. What is your favourite sport? Do you have a favourite team? Player?
AMC. My favourite sport is whomever my husband is cheering for.
AP. What would you say to people who say to you ‘why Edmonton’?
AMC. The people. Hands down. The community is amazing.
AP. What is the one thing you want to share with everyone reading this?
AMC. Do the things you want to do even before you feel ready. I hear this excuse all the time: “I’m not ready yet, maybe next year.” Even with photographers who I encourage to enter InFocus because I see potential in their work, there is often this fear and resistance. What do you have to lose? What do you have to gain? You likely will gain a whole lot more than you lose. That is the beauty of experience and putting yourself out there. Be bold and pursue your dreams – then you will create the kind of life you don’t need a vacation from.
For more information about Alexis or the InFocus Photo Exhibit visit the websites below, or in person at the Front Gallery.