Routine can be a mundane thing. Grabbing a coffee before work, driving through dimly lit streets and keeping an eye out for bright yellow lane dividers – all routine. It’s clockwork for most, hardly the kind of things that make people stop, stare and appreciate the beauty of the everyday.
But for Chloe Wilson, 29, those are the small things that are worth hours and hours of painting. Her work focuses on often overlooked details: streetlights, a fading sunset behind a wooden fence, brake lights of a car or criss-crossing power lines overhead. Whether they’re hanging in a coffee shop or a clothing store, the images themselves give reason to stop, stare and appreciate. Wilson’s work is ubiquitous locally, and currently can be seen on the hand-stamped to-go coffee cups of Café Lumière and Bright Coffee.
Wilson, who has lived in large, culturally vibrant cities like Chicago and Oakland, came back to her hometown of Pacific Grove to contribute to the community that fostered her artistic creativity. She’s an alum of the Youth Arts Collective, a Monterey nonprofit, and now a YAC mentor and social media coordinator. Throughout the month of March, she did the 30 days/30 drawings challenge, in which participants create works of art daily for 30 days. The Weekly caught up with Wilson to talk about what she finds beautiful, and what drew her back home.
Weekly: Was there a moment in your life when you realized you were going to become an artist?
Wilson: I’ve been making things since forever, like weird projects. I made cardboard cell phones and monsters. I also took art classes at York School, and they allowed me to do anything I wanted.
Being part of YAC, I realized everyone was good. I felt like an ant. But they encouraged me enough to make me realize if I could just keep working on it, I could be just as good as everyone else. So it was a gradual kind of progression.
You moved to Chicago when you graduated from UC Davis, then to Oakland. Why did you decide to come back home?
The city was great. In Oakland, I did a lot with ink and paper. But one Halloween when I was biking home from work I heard a “BANG!” and I froze. I looked up and it was a guy holding a gun. It was just a BB gun and it was obviously just a prank, but I was traumatized. I was so shook up. There was that incident, and I also felt like I couldn’t find a community there.
So there’s no community in Oakland? That sounds unusual.
There is, but it wasn’t my community. The people are nice, but it felt wrong trying to be part of the scene as a white person.
Are you talking about gentrification?
Yeah, I am. There’s tons of community spirit there, and here I was moving into their city. So I decided to come back home. Here, I know the people and I know what they need. And I think it’s important for young people to go back to where they came from and contribute to it and make it better.
Who are your local artist heroes?
Meg Biddle and Marcia Perry, the founders of YAC. They were my mentors growing up. And Suzanne Manchester, a local artist who is also a family friend. She’s a super-talented painter and printmaker. Casper Callaway, a tattoo artist who is also a YAC alum.
This list is short, but there are plenty of artists in this area who inspire me to keep doing what I do.
Your current work deals a lot with mundane, everyday things. A lot of artists seem more drawn to seascapes or the famous Lone Cypress.
I don’t find power lines or windows beautiful all the time, but I do like to catch them when they are beautiful – if you look at windows [or] a power line, and at the right light – that’s when I appreciate them. There’s beauty in everything.
Plus, in the world we live in, a lot of people live in industrial and developed landscapes, but they’re still landscapes. I noticed that after I’ve been painting power lines for a few months, now I find myself looking at power lines – there’s a lot electricty happening here going out to so many people. They’re objects that make you realize where exactly you are.