The Boundless Creativity of Chloe Viening-Butler
Chloe Viening-Butler is a poet, artist, caregiver, and advocate for the disabled. Her aesthetic practice and life are intermeshed more seamlessly than any artist I’ve encountered. Because her days are spent tending to the needs of her family clan, pets, and homestead, Viening-Butler typically works at night. Her studio is located above the garage in an addition that was used as billiard room by the previous homeowners. The space is dominated by the abandoned pool table, covered with boxes of finished paintings.
Chloe is resilient, resourceful, prolific, and very funny. I would classify her as a painter, but she’s also a fiber artist creating unusual high-relief works that look like biological specimens fabricated using Japanese Boro techniques. Her artist statement indicates that she’s always made use of whatever materials she could find, but given her admiration for the surrealists, I suspect that scavenging is not due to limited resources, but because she finds the endeavor gratifying. Philosopher and surrealist sympathizer Claude Levi-Strauss compared “scientific thinking”, to “magic thinking”. He reasoned that the artist is a bricoleur who collects, because he/she sees potential in everything.
Her interest in surrealism is evident in her love of found materials, as well as her loose painterly images that recall the automatic techniques adopted by the surrealists. Her current paintings can be divided into non-objective abstractions and figurative works. The abstract paintings tend to incorporate a broader palette, and resemble works by Mark Rothko (dating from c.1945-1948). Her figurative works are generally limited to two colors, and feature a deadpan quality reminiscent of those by David Salle. Viening-Butler said that the subjects are inspired by black and white photographs from vintage magazines. Her stepfather was an artist and antique dealer, so vintage copies of Life magazine were always on-hand. Paintings featuring animals possess the same pulsating vitality of her non-objective works. When I asked about the animal subjects she said she liked the fact that they could express personality or emotional states as effectively as human subjects, but without being tied to a specific era, gender, or culture.
Viening-Butler sells her work on-line at viening butler art. She is having a sale November 18-20 at 227 South Division. Hours are Friday 10-6, Saturday 10-6, Sunday 12-3.
by Tamara Fox