L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
CHELSEA WONG: To me, being an artist involves a lot more than just making art. In addition to creating a body of work and establishing oneself, there is the administrative work, shows, sales and in general, being disciplined. It takes time and dedication to hone in on a vision. Despite attending art school and growing up with a paintbrush in my hand, it wasn’t until more recently when my practice outweighed my 9-to-5 job, did I really consider myself an artist.
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
I am a figurative painter and a storyteller. My work celebrates multicultural communities and champions inclusivity, highlighting diversity while envisioning a better future. My work makes people feel good; it puts hope and joy into the world.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
At points I dreamed about being a cultural anthropologist or a foreign diplomat. But I’m glad I’m an artist. In a way being an artist is like being a cultural anthropologist, and to work in the arts one must be a diplomat, but this way I just live for myself and I am grateful and fortunate it’s worked so far.
Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?
Yes, I did. I attend Parsons School of Design in NYC and completed my BFA at California College of Arts in Oakland. I loved creating then as I do now and encourage people to follow their passion and say yes to themselves when possible. Investing in yourself is a great way to make your dreams a reality.
When was your first show?
My BFA show at California College of the Arts. It was a good way to learn what a tsunami of effort it takes to have a show. I can’t look at that body of work now, though! It’s good I’ve come a long way since then.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show?
I am currently showing at New Image Art in West Hollywood. I love the programming at New Image and am excited about the body of work I have there. It’s optimistic and I think we all need that right now.
What artist living or dead would you most like to show with?
David Hockney, and we’d have a long chat about what’s in that crazy, gifted brain of his. Gotta love him.
Do you listen to music while you work? If so what?
I mostly listen to audiobooks in the studio but lately I’ve been listening to a lot of ‘60s-’70s rock and roll, country and folk. I make some weird mixes, think Patsy Cline, Captain Beyond, then Link Wray and Tim Buckley. I mostly listen to audiobooks though. I am a big fan of scaring myself and love Stephen King because his audiobooks are 40 hours long. When you paint as much as I do, you need a lot of listening material!
Website and social media handles, please!