Chantal Lesley

Chantal Lesley - Anything But Brown 2, 3, 4. Third Coast National Biennial 2020. K Space Contemporary

Honorable Mention

I’m a daughter of German and Peruvian immigrants who grew up in Brownsville, a Mexican American border town, on the southern tip of Texas. Feeling stretched between four cultures has led to a strong interest in issues of identity in my work. My work always stems from my own personal experiences, and I often turn the camera towards myself to combat frustrations I feel about societal pressures on women, which include my body image, being an unmarried woman, and even the color of my skin. In my work, I feel compelled to tell the story of what it means to be a modern millennial woman.

Tell us about the work(s) you have in this exhibition.

Chantal Lesley, Third Coast National, K Space Contemporary Chantal Lesley, Third Coast National, K Space Contemporary Chantal Lesley, Third Coast National, K Space Contemporary Chantal Lesley, Third Coast National, K Space Contemporary
‘Anything But Brown’ series 12″ x 18″ framed Archival Inkjet Print $250 each
“Anything but Brown” is a photographed performance of a ritual I would perform as a little girl. While growing up I struggled with my appearance, as I did not feel like I looked like my Barbie dolls, the women in magazines, and movies. As a child when I was left alone to play, I would sometimes try to replicate my Barbie’s skin tone by covering myself in baby powder, believing this would make me “pretty.” When I was nineteen years old, I briefly lived in a Florida apartment with five other women. It was my first time away from my hometown, which consisted of a large Hispanic population and the first time I was surrounded by others who didn’t look like me. While having a casual conversation with two of my roommates we stumbled across the subject of eye color and if we had the ability to change their color, what we would change it to? One of my roommates responded with, “anything but brown.”  I remember at that moment feeling shame and questioning the color brown. Everything about me is brown: my hair, my eyes, and my skin. That moment made me reach back into my subconscious and revisited my memories and desire to be a little girl with white skin.

What draws you to your chosen medium, what do you love about it?

What I love about photography is that I can take a thought or an idea and make it into a realistic representation of my idea and it becomes a tangible object that no longer has to live in my mind. Photography grants me the freedom to work with time and make it malleable.

What inspires you to make art?

Typically I’m inspired by my own experiences. I’m inspired by my community, and my family’s stories and cultures. Other artists that I look up to include: Ana Mendieta, Joiri Minaya, LaToya Ruby Frazier, and Kara Walker.

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