Chad Kristian discusses his life, art, hashtags and upcoming collection...
Sunday, July 12, 2015
Captured in his Central Louisiana home, artist Chad Kristian, is caught in a deep thought selfie.
Interview by A.Washi, freelance writer/LSU Stan
What is it like living between Central Louisiana (Alexandria, specifically) and such a great city like New Orleans?
Oh my God. (sigh) Seriously, it’s been one of the most interesting and crazy life experiences ever. I honestly didn’t think I would be back in Central Louisiana until later in life. You know, retired maybe!?!? (haha, laughs) It’s crazy. But I do love it here. There’s loads of freedoms here compared to the stress of what it’s like living in a big city full-time; which can cost a whole lot more. Plus, a great deal of my family is here. Especially my mom whom I love dearly. We have loads of fun together. Coming here was also at a time in my life when I felt it best that I needed to be with her; which works out for her as well.
Honestly, having a space in Central Louisiana and New Orleans has always been ideal for me. Alexandria is in such a great location to do so many things I find it exciting and the ability to travel is great from here too. It’s not in some remote region of the state far away from civilization. I’m only a short flight to Dallas, Houston or Atlanta but I mostly drive to them all. Yes, without a question, I find the pace here can be a little slow but it’s also comforting and quiet. You can’t put a price tag on that. I can get tons of work done here which is why I choose to live in both cities. Now in the city (New Orleans), however, it’s a different vibe that I totally dig. Always have. Even as a kid, I’ve always loved going to New Orleans. From visiting family, attending the different festivals, seeing the Mardi Gras Indians, Second Line groups and Brass Bands - whatever - you name it. There was and still is, no place like it in the states. None. Don’t get me wrong, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Miami are all wonderful and amazing but not like this. Not on this kind of level. New Orleans has always been a magical and inspiring place for me. Very cool. Spiritual. I can’t give her up just yet.
It sounds like you’re not planning on taking up residence outside of the South or Louisiana. What do you love about Louisiana?
The food. It’s been pretty tough lately getting into my joggers or gym shorts after a big plate of my mom’s Red Beans or her Gumbo. (laughs) Okay, I’ll start over.. The food, my family and friends. Have you had food outside of Louisiana?! It’s a lot of strikes before you get to a home run. Don’t get me wrong, I could totally see myself living abroad again but not at this moment in time. I still have a ton of shit to do here and I have so much family and friends across the state - I could probably run for office. Seriously. It’s truly insane sometimes how close folks live together in Louisiana as a community compared to other places. I’m not saying we aren’t without conflict or fault but surely you got to believe it’s the food that keeps us from killing one another. No other reason. Not to mention, it’s probably the only state I’ve lived in the longest. That could be it. Although, there was that one time in Berlin but I was much younger.
What are some of your personal favorites (anything) in Louisiana?
I would say…. lately I’ve been making an old southern favorite - Fish and Grits. Blackened Tilapia, Parmesan grits and a little tomato relish or whatever the hell I make. I don't quite have a name for it. It’s good whatever the hell it is. Was I not supposed to talk about food again? (laughs)
No, it’s okay. What else?
Um, I don’t know….. (long pause) ….my other favorites include our many green spaces across the state and our water ways. I like the outdoors. Except for the mosquito problem. I love the downtown and river front areas in both cities. Each have something cool to offer. I like to go running along the river. A good time is in the fall but Summer works best for me.
Ooh, I love all things local. I’m always searching for or finding great little restaurants, local attractions like proverbial holes in the wall (clubs or bars), local jewelers, artists or whatever. Home grown businesses, restaurants and things like that. I try to support as many as I possibly can. For example, my Fleur de Lis ring by Mignon Faget, a pin by India Stewart or a pair of bamboo ear spears by Lavalais that I have. I try to collect them all.
My other personal favorites would include working in our yard pruning roses and being able to constantly work in my Green Oaks Studio.
Pruning roses and working in your studio sounds like it doesn’t leave much room for fine clothes. Are you wearing any these days?
Uh… ..Any clothes or do you mean like designer threads?
Asshole. (laughs) I’ve painted in everything I own. I think that living here you have to be smart when deciding what to wear no matter what season it is. Most of the year its hot anyway so I’ve learned not to make a fuss about the heat and wear whats comfortable. Right now - a pink chambray, some dark denim and my favorite loafers. No socks. Any other time, it will range from worn cut-off jean shorts and a thin polo or I’m going somewhere of importance and need to put on a linen blazer and a tunic. Same jeans. Same loafers. Not much changes my way. I try to keep it simple. But I do love clothes. Hands down, I love a fine suit and my opera band slippers but it’s not the every day Chad. (laughs)
Okay, let’s get down to it. Let’s talk “THE ARTS”. Whose work do you admire? Currently following? Your favorite artist(s)?
I’ll say this, there are tons of artists that I love and those that I can’t even name who are worthy of my praise. I respect, follow, read up on, study and research them all but none at the moment have had a lasting impression on me of this magnitude other than the late Dr. Cheryl McKay Dixon. May her name and work live on in the art realm next to all of our legends forever. Axé! She was an excellent artist and an even greater teacher. It’s one of those things I have to remind myself the most; not only what I am thankful for but of who also. Master Teacher! (laughs)
She sounds like she was a special person?
Was she? What would you say to her now?
She was! Eclectic, intelligent and all. I remember how she would slay us in class all the time (deep sigh). She taught us with a great sense of pride and respect for the arts (I admired that about her); as well as the tenacity to handle us smoothly without even knowing she was preparing us for a future in art. She challenged us. She challenged me. From that point on I knew who I wanted to impress, if no one else. I would tell her today that I love her and am honored to have been one of her students while at Dillard. I hate that we don’t say - I love you enough - I’m still learning to do that.
Cool. Understood. But is there anyone you are currently following that you would like to acknowledge or share?
Right now I’m following the great works of El Anatsui, Jas Knight, Shikeith (who did this kick-ass film - Black Men Dream), Shanequa Gay and Fehamou Pecou. I’ve been following Pecou for some time and most recently saw the exhibition he did with Jose Parla earlier this summer over at the High Museum in Atlanta. I also enjoy viewing art on social media. It’s not something I thought we’d see today next to the everyday selfie but it’s kind of cool to see the works of other artists. It gives me hope. I don’t think I would've ever discovered great artists like Markus Prime without the help of my Tumblr account. My attitude is to simply be supportive of it all. At this moment, we have yet to see an end coming to social media despite the tons of crazy things happening out there in cyberspace. However, I’m grateful for it in some ways because it has allowed for the expansion of various platforms that I support and share like - Black Lives Matter.
What are your thoughts on the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag? Is it necessary, worthy of a RT?
I won’t bother going too far down my timeline with all of the hashtags I’ve posted but I think this one is more than a movement here in the states - it’s definitely something expressed across the world. Black Lives Matter is more than just another hashtag or slogan uttered across the world trending as popular black culture in response to black struggle. It was initially installed as a campaign against the illicit death of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, John Crawford III and Eric Garner. But now.. Now, it’s a call to the collective black conscious amongst other things. I applaud the great works of Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullers and Opal Tometi for more than the hashtag but their collective works in the struggle.
You know it’s like we’ve been stuck on the same channel for so damn long even the reruns don’t look like reruns any more… ..because we’ve forgotten what we were watching from the start. For some, it may feel like fresh wounds with what we are dealing with in the states but in actuality (for those who are of a certain age, well read or both) it’s more like like fresh tares on old wounds that we thought were healed. It’s crazy in the U.S. right now. Politically and socially. Police Culture in America has always included the mass targeting of blacks. Zero fucks given since the days of slavery. From Overseer to Warden and Officer. This shit ain’t new. I don’t believe there is one community in this country, where we reside, that hasn’t shared in the same experiences in the massive loss of black lives. I wonder what the number count is now? You know it’s trending on social media right?!? Genocide. For real. What I find troubling most is the constant struggle and conflict in black communities across the country; especially in areas that were once considered Black Meccas. For example, my beloved New Orleans. Have you been recently?! Since Katrina? It’s practically been 10 years since she hit the city.
Huge fucking cultural shift. Fuck Katrina. The transition thats taking place right now is so fucked for people of color, black people. I swear I keep telling people - Black New Orleans Matters.
Interesting. How has that affected you?
What does that mean?
I feel mostly affected by the transition because it doesn’t afford us the opportunity to return back to New Orleans in the best ways possible (having access to housing, jobs, whatever) without facing even larger obstacles. The obstacles can only be defined by race and class through the constant struggle of power in the city; handed down mostly from the elite (The old South aka Old Money and Young Blood aka The Transplant). All politics. Don’t get me wrong, in some ways New Orleans has seemingly progressed but only in areas that service certain neighborhoods (read: white agenda) and whatever benefits the state’s budget via Tourism.
It’s why Black New Orleans is so important right now.
Look, I can go on and on but the reality is - if black folks can’t move back into New Orleans, she will lose her good seasoning hand. As best as I can describe it. It is from the many contributions of our collective culture that the state and the city could afford so much by way of the many ancestors before us but most recently because of our diverse group of cultural bearers, artists, cooks, activists, shop owners, restauranteurs, business men and women and everyday New Orleanians that add to the larger part of said Tourism in Louisiana. There would be no more Treme, Congo Square, Mardi Gras Indians, Second Line groups, Brass Bands, Jazz, Little Dizzy’s, Gene’s, Ashé, Anthony Bean, Kermit Ruffins, Allen Toussaint, Germaine Bazzle, Betty Shirley, Hot 8, John Boutte, Troy Sawyer, Juvenile or Nothin But Fire Records along with tons of other folks and places I can’t think of or name at this time…(scoffs) ..and the city. Shit. The city would be void of it's largest cash crop - Black Culture. From there, who knows if the generations of old and new would care enough to revisit things. It's why Black New Orleans Matters on so many levels.
Black MECCA (if you will) is how I've always seen it. It's one of the few, most enchanting and mystical places in this country where our ancestors have maintained traces of our past that connects us. We have a rich history there. For that, I am grateful and present to see her progress as such.
I feel like I need a breather. That was tough. Let’s change the subject.
Indeed. (both laugh).
Who are you currently listening to?
So many to name but…. I’ll go with my top five right now. Tank and The Bangas,,Jesse Boykins III, Fela Kuti, Lion Babe/AstroRaw and KDot.
What is it like as an artist for you?
Does the music influence your work?
I feel something every time I listen. I enjoy all vibes. Frequencies. It usually doesn’t take me long to find my groove with music. From there, it then becomes all about applying that energy to the work.
Anything new? Any upcoming projects?
Some of my upcoming projects include the launch of my online store, a fashion collaboration with The Wildlife Reserve and a new body of work. I'm completely overwhelmed and excited of it all but especially about the collab. I've been following their brand for a few years now. Having the opportunity to work with them after going to a couple of shows and seeing their wonderful work over the years is an honor and a pleasure. I think The Wildlife Reserve has something truly special and unique. I couldn't be more happier than having the opportunity to work with such a great designer and fellow artist. Hopefully, you will get to see our work later this year.
And your work?
Lately, creating this new body of work has been challenging but I like to think it's coming together pretty fast. It's pretty dark but full of light. If that makes sense. Things can change soon though. I'm not really sure. (laughs)
What does that even mean?
I think that I'm at a point in the developmental process where things can change direction. This is kind of one of the fun parts of creating. I'm faced with the decision to either further elevate the work or finish nicely. It will definitely be dark but not draining. Always uplifting. Of course there are some Gold elements but you'll see. Soon. I hope. (laughs)
I'll take your word for it. God Speed.
What do you hope for in the Future of Black Art?
Progression, further acceptance and larger collections being housed at our institutions as well as others.
Thank you for your time.
No thank you. I had fun and I love you.
interviewed by A.Washi
freelance writer/LSU Stan