I have had a long-term interest in using natural materials as my canvas. Since 2006, my work has primarily been on wood panels, with occasional pieces on aluminum. I have found that these materials bode well for my aesthetic and preferred medium, often heavy in viscosity and consistent in offering more depth and moments of visual and textural exploration. I continue to use classical fine art methods and materials; studio quality primers, premium oil and water based paints and finishing with oil based protectants that promote luster and longevity. In the beginning of 2017, I chose to make a shift and explore a canvas that is an homage to my maternal family heritage. My mother's home country of Portugal is known for producing half of the world's cork and for centuries of nautical mastery. On a drive to the Algarve during my most recent trip to Portugal, I passed through several acres of Oak Cork trees that had been harvested for their bark and marked with a number, representing the number of years passed since the last harvest. Inspired by these cork farms and seeing the expansive use of cork interwoven in so many aspects of everyday life; I'm moved to use this sustainable material as my canvas to explore my nautical aesthetic; creating pieces that are intimate windows into who I am and where I come from. "Rustico" is a Portuguese conversational term for mixing old and new aesthetics; a harmonious sight often reflected in the blend of centuries-old buildings and newer construction. I love mixing old traditions, materials and styles with contemporary taste.
In this same lens of reconnecting with my family's history, my portrait and interview series, Unconventional Apology Project, explores the fluidity of identity and legacy through storytelling. My grandmother, Mableine Nelson Barlow, was shot to death at 36 by my grandfather in 1975 in Compton, CA. Her death and my family's method of coping with such great loss, along with my inheriting of my grandfather's beloved camera, sparked this artistic extension because her existence was nearly erased; few photos exist of her life. When I inherited my grandfather's camera in 2013, I chose to use it as a tool to take 36 portraits of survivors of domestic violence or the family members of those who were unable to survive. The Project is in honor of my grandmother and all activities around it firmly honor her memory. Unconventional Apology Project is currently ongoing, with an immersive exhibit and documentary in development.
I hope you enjoy these extensions of me and appreciate their origins.
Chantal Barlow was born to her Portuguese mother and African American father on January 7, 1987 in El Paso, Texas, where her father was stationed in the United States Army. Shortly after her birth, her family permanently moved to Austin, Texas. Chantal has been painting since she had her own bedroom in her parents' first home, often told not to stain the new flooring and to return the foil and saran wrap she was "borrowing" to create texture in her work on canvas.
From adolescence through adulthood, Chantal traveled extensively with her family, but was most impacted by her mother's home country of Portugal. While living there for months at a time, she absorbed the topography and stark contrasts to her experience of American life. These influences remain in her work today, as many of her pieces mimic the topography, spirit and aesthetic of the ancient country.
Chantal moved to Los Angeles, California in 2005 to pursue her place in the arts, initially studying media production, but ultimately finding her artistic home in fine art. For the next 10 years she experimented with medium, material and aesthetic, ultimately realizing that her voice lay in the in between spaces, finding comfort in untraditional combinations of human experience and physical materials. In personal experience of Chantal, many find that she is an outlier in personality and lived experience, a reality that is confidently reflected in her work.
Intertwined with the support from curators and collectors alike, her work has been featured in digital and print publications like British Vogue and Angeleno Magazine. Chantal's pieces have also been included in multiple collections on international online gallery platforms beginning in 2012. Her current international exposure has come full circle with her travels, selling artwork to collectors as far as Austria. Her clientele continues to expand, now including design firms and independent professionals in the trade looking to finish projects with an original touch. Her latest aesthetic shift carries her connection to Portugal, as she now uses Portuguese cork as her canvas, mixing old traditions with contemporary taste.
Chantal is currently attending UCLA's prestigious School of the Arts and Architecture. She continues to facilitate the Unconventional Apology Project, a portrait and interview series giving voice to survivors of domestic abuse. She is routinely releasing portraits and interviews one at a time on UnconventionalApology.com, the Project's website, but will also have a culminating immersive exhibit and documentary when the series is completed.