The Art Connoisseur: Alanna Chelmick
"Art is an investment in my well being."
Alanna Chelmick is a Toronto-based creative with a truly multi-dimensional practice. Alanna works with textiles, natural dies, collage, she's also a make-up artist– in short a Jill of all trades. Her approach to her work and the world is led by the core value of maintaining and contributing to community. It's something you can pick up on in the way that she curates; there is a wholeness present. Her eye is discerning but not judgemental and allows for beauty to exist freely in many forms. You can get a taste of Alanna's editorials of art and creatives that are on her radar in her instagram stories.
I'm excited to share this interview with you as it perfectly completes the first trilogy of the Art Connoisseur interviews which were driven by the theme of community. Alanna is an inspiration in many ways, and as we live through this difficult and divisive moment her warm, loving, inclusive and passionate approach is one to aspire to.
Here's Alanna in her own words...
I am a heart centred human who loves to make things with my hands. I am someone who smiles a lot, has freckles that come out with sunshine, and deeply love animals. I enjoy a lot of quiet time and this has been amplified with age. I feel like I have lived many lifetimes in this one. I have worked in different industries and studied a variety of subjects yet the thread that ties it all together is community, connection, creativity and being of service. Sometimes I joke that I am a Jill of all trades.
On Creative Practice
Making art feels healing to me, it feels like a necessity to my well being. My life feels synonymous with a collage in that I layer many things together to lead a supported and sustainable life. You can find me working on creative projects in my sunny Parkdale apartment/studio in Toronto with my two cats affectionately known as the Pickle Sisters. Overalls are my preferred outfit of choice, and denim, lots of denim. There are almost always fresh flowers in my apartment. I love color and textiles so there are many layers of them in any space I inhabit. Nesting comes naturally to me. Home is an important sacred space to me and it feeds my heart and creativity. I collect and curate vibrant second hand pieces for myself and for others. I repurpose textiles through botanical dyeing and silk screening, and I have also been doing makeup professionally for 17 years. School is something I have always loved so I have certifications in Holistic Health modalities and have a Bachelor's degree in Human Ecology. I take a holistic approach to living by doing all the above, spending lots of time in nature listening to birds, smiling at strangers and walking dogs.
My multi-dimensional art practice started as a child and has been led by intuition and experiencing the world with all my senses on. As a kid I loved painting so everyone in my family always got a handmade card for any special occasion. My family encouraged my creativity and even suggested I listen to my intuition. Forty two years later I am grateful that this was suggested so early in my existence.
Your Aesthetic as a Movie
The first thing that comes to mind is the original 1971 film Harold and Maude. This movie is a dark comedy which funnily is the opposite of me. It is rather the timelessness of the piece and the unexpected love affair between a young man and an eighty year old woman, the playfulness around the realities of life and death, the examination of loving and living brightly, with abandon. Maude lives in an old rail car and decorates with vintage finds, lots of different textiles, handmade items, art everywhere and an eclectic approach.
Maude stops to smell the flowers and always has braids in her hair. This is my aesthetic! I appreciate the ‘be here now’ quality of film too. What would love do now? Do that.
Maximalism vs. Minimalism
I am a maximalist through and through! Collecting things that are unique, art-full, beautiful, hand-made or feel good energetically has been an instinctive part of my way since I could decorate my own spaces. Since I was an teenager I started shopping in second hand shops. Digging through textiles, books and other objects feels therapeutic to me. This pastime has really cultivated a collection of lots of objects from around the world- art, textiles, furniture, jewelry, ceramics and oh purses and bags, lots of bags. I think of all of it as an expressive outlet and it feels good to be surrounded by colour, texture and stories.
I recall the first piece of original art that I bought was a painting by a dear friend and talented painter Jessica Delorme. It is an abstract painting on wood that is still hanging in my living room. I purchased it from her about 14 years ago. When I saw it, it just spoke to me - the layers of texture, the empty space, that it was painted on something repurposed. I had admired Jessica's work for a long time and finally felt like I had found the one and wanted to support her art practice through the exchange of money.
Before that I was buying vintage art at thrift stores and garage sales. I still admire some of those pieces too. In high school, I also acquired a giant life size canvas sketch of me that I traded my time for figure study modelling. It is still one of my favourite pieces in my collection by Richard Tosczak who invited me into a world of sculpture, figure studies and art collection that I am always grateful for to this day.
On Looking at Art
I interact with art based on how it feels to me, like how it feels to my eyes and in my heart being. I want to just feel something, anything, to be moved in some way, provoked, excited, soothed, softened, emotional. Can I sense a story about feelings? Is there energy that I feel is moving?
Money, Art and Well-being
There have been times in my life that I have not had much money yet I would still try to buy art if possible, even if small. It feels like an investment in my well being. I also love knowing that I can invest in the sustainability of other creatives wellbeing. It feels circular and important to me. I am so grateful for those who have invested in my art and helped me understand that it is worth paying for and appreciated.
Art unites communities, brings people together, shares history and makes spaces vibrant. It is an investment in so many layers of existence. I struggle with the cost of art sometimes only because it is not accessible to all financially.
On the Shortcomings of the Art World
I would like to see more women artists being celebrated, shown and paid for their work. Further, I would like to see women better represented in galleries as gender representation still favours men with more shows and higher paying positions in roles at galleries.
(some) Artists Alanna Admires
Nature is the place that I am most relaxed and happy. I gravitate to water nearly daily. Living a few blocks away from Lake Ontario supports my need for inner silence. Watching the tide and the way the waves move and change each day is one thing I am always observing. I find relaxation in looking through the washed up wood, twigs, pebbles and other bits. My sense is that the natural world is often making its own collages in the way things lay together; on the forest floor, at the beach. I watch the colour of the sky and the way it changes and evolves. I catch myself talking to the birds and squirrels. Every day I thank the trees for their presence and often touch them especially when they have a vibrant colour of bark.
photographs 1,4 & 5 by Jessica Blaine Smith