The growing fascination with Chet Zar, the extremely personable and versatile Painter of Dark, is easy to follow. It is especially interesting when an established artist makes a bold move into new territory. In this case, Chet has decided to meld his trademark haunted palette with the mystical tales of the first feminist from tales of yore, Lilith. Join us as we get a sneak peek into Zar’s beautiful underworld.
So Chet, tell us a little about the idea behind the new body of work. There seems to be a distinctly different visual thread from which you’ve weaved our narrative this time around. What is Lilith to you and what are the new paintings centered around?
Lilith is a fantastic myth associated with death, disease, storms, disasters. Her history is like a smorgasbord for an artist like myself. She is a mesopotamian storm demon, a succubus and baby stealer, blood drinker, the list goes on and on. But what also really interested me is that in later folklore she is the prototypical first feminist. She was Adam’s first wife and demanded being treated as an equal. Adam, being a male chauvenist pig, would only fuck her if he was on top. She wasn’t having that so she left the Garden of Eden. Then God in turn cursed her and said 100 of her children would die every day. I think it’s interesting that the first woman to stand up to male authority would also be made out to be the bad guy. It says a lot about our culture of domination.
Has working with a more effiminate subject matter brought any new artistic impulses to the forefront?
Every new series makes you grow as an artist (if you are trying new things). It has definitely broadened my horizons.
Do you see yourself incorporating more female-centered work into your oeuvre, or is this a special moment for these works?
It’s special for the moment but as with any series, it’s influence can easily be carried into the next, and so on. I’ll have to see.
You’ve been doing a lot of fan-oriented communication while you work, especially on Twitter. Recently you’ve even started a group of artists and art appreciators that chat and show progress shots on Friday nights, called #FridayNightArtDorks. What are your thoughts on this new way of remaining in constant contact with people? Do you find it helpful to show work in progress more than to save the effect of finished work, or is that even a consideration?
I love it. #FridayNightArtDorks started as a whim. One Friday night, I noticed a lot of my Twitter friends were tweeting that they were painting or making art. I thought I was the only one who wasn’t out partying on a Friday night. So I created this little hashtag (#FridayNightArtDorks) as just a fun little goof and people started reposting it and showing the progress of their work. It’s almost like you are all in a room together, bullshitting and making stuff. I find it really fun and it creates a real sense of community. I hope it keeps going and one day gets on Trending Topics. How funny would that be?
I think that the social networking sites like Twitter are essential for artists to connect with their fans. It’s a new way of communicating and getting your work out there. Actually, I think it will become one of the new standards in the artist’s promotional toolkit. So many great artists just get killed because of lack of self promotion. It’s something that many of us are just not good at. It’s a very different skill than art, although good promotion can be a kind of art itself. But I really like it because it is a direct link with your fans. There is no middleman or gallery standing between you and your viewers. I think that whole notion of the artist being untouchable and unreachable is bullshit. It’s really very elitist and not the way I like to conduct business.
As far as the idea of not showing work before it’s finished- there is something to be said about that, but I think the benefits of sharing the process outweighs the ‘wow’ factor of waiting until a piece is finished before anybody sees it. I am a process junkie. I love learning about how things work. It also engages fans, collectors and art appreciators. The bottom line is that I love to see in progress pics of artists that I like, so it only makes sense that I should do the same. I also like the encouragement and feedback.
In what ways have you seen yourself grow as an artist lately?
I have been really trying to use more vivid colors a lot more. I am also taking more time to plan out my paintings before I start them. I used to just start painting without any prep. It’s a fun and intuitive way to work but at this point in my artistic career I am trying to refine my process.
What is one challenge or goal that you see for your future artistic endeavors?
My one goal is always the same- to get better and better as an artist. And it’s a challenge every time.
And now back to the topic at hand: As you worked on the Lilith works, did you notice any specific breakthrough moments or newly realized connections to anything while creating a new body of work that differs from your usual fare?
I realized that I can work in a more traditional realm of beauty. One of the challenges of the Lilith paintings was the fusion of traditional feminine beauty with the creepy darkness that I love to paint.
On a more technical note, these paintings really made me appreciate the power of glazing. Glazing (painting thin transparent washes of color) is a technique that I have always utilized, but only because it felt natural to me. But when you delve into it, glazing can create a really beautiful glowing atmosphere. There just isn’t any other technique that I know of to get that feeling.
Chet Zar’s “Lilith” Opens Saturday, October 3, 8:00 – 11:30 pm at Copro Gallery in Santa Monica.