Aleah got in touch recently to share her work with us. She wrote, “Listening to your podcast gave inspiration to my brush strokes, and a place for my mind to rest while my intuition could get to work.” She just completed work for an upcoming show in London titled Within Wilds.
The series explores the passage of time as seen through the human body. Aleah paints mostly female forms – including the aging figures of women in later life – set in wild landscapes pulled from the forests near her Washington home. She portrays the physical journey of the body in poetic terms, imbuing the forms of older women with natural, sensuous vitality.
Although we don’t know the women in her paintings, we know someone, or we are someone, or will someday be someone who has let our hair air-dry after a swim, whose body has seen years flicker past and children born and scars healed, who knows the feel of soft grass on bare feet and the trill of rising laughter. There’s something she captures in the sharp details lit by a pale moon or pine filtered sunlight that makes us feel alive.
There is something so universal and distinct about the body; we all have one, but no one is exactly alike. We are born in these bodies, their form passed down from our ancestors, and then we shape them by the way we live. So I’m drawn to the human form because of its universality and the way that that unifies us. I want to paint every detail because through those details, we can see the stories of our lives.
I usually know what I need to paint because it’s all I can think about. There’s a resonance that goes beyond logic right to my core. I had just moved home to Seattle from living in the linear world of NYC for over 5 years. All I wanted was to be in the woods and the mountains, so in my studio, that’s where I decided to go. (Also, to create these paintings, I needed reference images, which meant it was my job to go into the woods!)
For the first time in my life, I was less interested in painting people, and more interested in their textured, wild surroundings. But through the process of creating this show, I realized it was actually the relationship between our bodies and the landscape that fascinated me. I wanted to be in the mountains and forests because of the way it made my body and soul feel. I became interested in how the outer landscape mirrored and affected the inner one. There was a wildness that I was craving, and I found it both in the worlds my figures existed in and in the individuals themselves and how they reflected those worlds.
I realized it was actually the relationship between our bodies and the landscape that fascinated me… I became interested in how the outer landscape mirrored and affected the inner one.
It was just time. I loved living in NYC, I loved being surrounded by amazing and thoughtful artists, I loved swimming through the big intense energy of it all. But I kept feeling a pull towards home. The summer before my husband and I moved to Seattle, my childhood friend, Hannah Wahl and I hiked up to Tuck and Robin Lakes in the Alpine Lakes Wildnerness. I remember waking up in the middle of the night and stepping out of the tent into this etherial, starry realm at the top of the world. I felt both intimidated and completely held. It’s like the wildness of it all was both terrifying in it’s mystery, yet known and safe in the fact that all my worries, all humanities insecurities are nothing compared to this. We had already decided to move back, but this was the moment I really knew I needed to. I felt inspired like I hadn’t in years. This was bigger than the insular ecosystem of the NYC Art World. I knew that both on a personal level and on a creative one, I needed to come home. The following summer, Hannah and I climbed back up those nearly 3,000 feet, woke up at 3am and took photos of every bit of interesting rock, plant and sky. That experience led to the painting “Their Shouts Were Drowned In The Stars” and was the beginning of this body of work.
Photos courtesy of Aleah Chapin and Flowers Gallery, London.
Aleah Chapin is an Artist based in Seattle, Washington. Her show “Within Wilds” will be at Flowers Gallery in London Oct 4-Nov 7, 2017. Find more of her work on Instagram, Facebook and aleahchapin.com.