Aleah Chapin featured on Artinfo.com
3 September 2013
"Although she only just received her MFA, figurative painter Aleah Chapin has already garnered plenty of praise and prizes for her refreshingly honest nude portraits of women in their golden years. After winning the National Portrait Gallery's BP Portrait Award in 2012 (only the second American ever to do so), Chapin became a post-graduate fellow at the New York Academy of Art. The 2013 Fellows Exhibition, which opens tonight at the Academy's Wilkinson Gallery, features Chapin's portraits along with abstract paintings by Jonathan Beer and sculptures by Nicolas Holiber. In the lead-up to the opening, we asked her a few questions about her work and what's next.
Your portraits usually take the female body as their subject. Why female nudes?
That's actually a question I have asked myself often. The female nude is one of the most painted subjects in art history. I think, like most artists, that the female body is gorgeous and painting it is incredibly fun. It might also be that as a female artist, I can identify with my models much more.
Your most recent series, "Aunties," is portraits of older women you've known all your life. How did you convince these women to pose for such revealing paintings? Were they hesitant?
I just asked them and most of them said yes. When I began, I was still a student at the New York Academy of Art. I was worried that I would lose my models once the paintings started to gain a wider audience outside of a school setting. But I haven't found that to be the case and I'm very grateful. I think the fact that they agreed to pose for me says a lot about who they are as people. But despite their willingness, it is not always easy and takes a great deal of personal strength on their part.
Do you paint from photographs or from live models?
I've worked from life a lot over the past 10 years, but have found that I have so much more creative freedom when I work from photographs. I take my own, and the photo shoots - which will last for several hours and have included up to 11 models - are quite an experience. Although I am aware of the pitfalls of working this way, I've realized that the camera gives me the opportunity to see a wide range of spontaneous aspects of my model's personality. I love that it allows me to explore in great detail, small moments that describe these people that I know so well.
You won the National Portrait Galley's BP Portrait Award in 2012. Did that bring a lot of attention to your practice?
Yeah it did. I was just graduating from the New York Academy of Art where I am now completing a Postgraduate Fellowship, and if I'm honest, it was all pretty overwhelming. But I feel so lucky that a year out of school, I'm able to do what I love full-time.
What are you working on now?
Right now, I'm beginning work for a solo show at Flowers Gallery in London in 2014. This has been a dream of mine ever since I can remember, so I'm very excited!"