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October 19, 2017

Local artist Chelsea Granger talks about her life in both creation and performance

Deathmarch by Chelsea Granger

(Deathmarch by Chelsea Granger)

It was only recently that Chelsea Granger became more comfortable calling herself an artist. One look at her work would confirm the validity in this belief: Granger has a true talent.

Granger is an artist originally from Southwick that strives to make affordable art. She first attended – and later dropped out of due to expenses – Parsons School of Design in New York, but eventually went back to school and graduated with a bachelor of fine arts degree in painting from the University of Massachusetts.

Though Granger says art was the place she felt most comfortable, she doesn’t think she ever identified as an artist. She knew art would remain an unwavering constant in her life but one that would be overshadowed by making substantial money for living expenses. Only in the past few years have these two things started to overlap for Granger.

Granger described her particular style as “rooted in the human condition – the fragility of existence, both gorgeous and horrible. To paint with the intention of the work being a blessing of sorts – to be presented to the viewer but also to the universe, sky, fields, spirits, et cetera.

“I have believed for a long time that there is some sort of other-worldly thing happening when making art, that some sort of magic is taking place – painting as some sort of healing-ritual-offering-tool. My work concerns gathering, grief, land, plants, the animal world, mourning, grief, liminal spaces, celebration, crowds, processions, love and beauty.”

Her work can vary with how long it usually takes to complete, ranging from hours for some paintings to days or months for others. And for her collaborations, it can take much longer because of the time spent communicating between her and her partner.

Granger has been a part of many collaborations with other artists. Most often, she works with another artist, Brittany Nickerson. They co-created an herbal-moon poster five years ago and have annually collaborated on it since. Granger describes the collaborative partnership as supportive.

Collaborations started after Granger took Nickerson’s Home Herbalism class and began making pictures in her notebook to remember things better. Since then, Granger has fallen into the habit of drawing plants with no references.

“There is some sort of magic that happens when I am able to draw something directly from life,” Granger said. “This has deeply affected my art practice beyond our collaborations. Collaboration has also taught me to be a better listener, question asker, problem solver, negotiator and businesswoman. Collaboration has made me more confident and more capable.”

When it comes to the world of art, most work is inspired by other work or people. Granger’s favorite artists and inspirations are her friends, family and the community that surround her.

“I am inspired by how they show up in this world,” she said. “I am inspired by old botanical illustrations, by scrap fabric, folk artists, folk medicine, junk piles and hand painted signs from years ago. I am extremely inspired by radical, beautiful thinkers such as Audre Lorde, Ursula Le Guin and my dear old-lady friend Jo – I think intergenerational friendships are undervalued and so important and inspiring to the health of humanity.”

Long-term goals for Granger consist of continuing down her current path and expanding her art into more outlets. This includes returning to screen printing as well as possibly creating some illustrated books with friends. She wants to become more fluent in Spanish to better connect and engage with the organizations and people doing work she believes in surrounding social and environmental justice.

After living in a house with 10 others, she’s recently moved to Connecticut, where she spends any time not spent creating art on reading, listening to radio programs and being out in nature. Granger is mostly self-employed with her art and has an Etsy shop. Her current project is with another artistic outlet of hers: The Royal Frog Ballet, which she describes as “a group of artists and friends who make collaborative spectacles and performance art.”

Aly Nichols can be reached at anichols@umass.edu.

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