Our “Pew Fellow of the Week” series focuses on the artistic lives of our Pew Fellows: their aspirations, influences, and creative challenges.
Visual artist Jonathan Lyndon Chase (2019) spoke to us about their art-making routine and the artists, early experiences, and aspects of Philadelphia culture that most influence their work.
Chase’s vivid, gestural portraits employ painting, collage, and drawing to reflect the complexities of Black and queer identity. They have described the subjects of their portraits as “friends and family or my own reflection,” and they create works that consider both the private and public nature of the body, often conveying intimate domestic scenes or rendering life-size figures in large-scale canvases. Their recent exhibitions include Wind Rider at Company Gallery in New York and their first solo museum exhibition, Big Wash, which is on view at The Fabric Workshop and Museum January 2–June 6, 2021. Chase also contributed, along with a number of other Pew Fellows, to Young, Gifted and Black: A New Generation of Artists, a survey of essays and artworks from contemporary Black artists.
How did you become an artist? Is there a particular experience that drove you to this choice?
My mother was my first introduction to art. She paints with watercolors, crafts things with her hands, and is into interior design. When I was younger, we would draw a lot together, and she would take me to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Parts of it were natural and also parts were stimulating to my mind and imagination.
Why do you choose to work and live in Philadelphia? In your experience, what makes this art scene distinctive?
Philadelphia is where I was born and raised. My work is parts about myself and also parts about my friends and family who grew up in Philly too! I love everything from the architecture, music, fashion, and objects I find in the city that I often use to inform my process through photographs. Philadelphia has a very warm and rich Black queer community.
What is your daily art-making routine?
I wake up around 5:30 a.m. and tend to my morning rituals of yoga, coffee, and news, and then into emails and checking in on friends and family. I am usually in the studio around 9:30 a.m. and picking up wherever I left off. In my studio, I paint, sculpt, draw, and do photography, to name a few. I usually just jump right in unless I am doing some reading or sketchbook/notebook organizing. I am out of the studio around 5.
At home, I do research and archival notes organization, as well as some drawing. More of my research practice is at home, like articles and reading material as well as organizing my sketchbooks and research binders. I paint canvases a lot more now, but they are smaller, and I keep some drawings that I work on at home before I transfer them to the studio.
What was the first work of art that really mattered to you? Did it influence your approach to your work?
I had to pick between Jacob Lawrence and Chris Ofili, who are two of my favorite artists. I like their vulnerability when it comes to the figure and how they were sort of mundane and also magical at the same time, especially the collage and paint materials. I work with figures and collage along with interior spaces, exterior spaces, and some spaces that are a little more abstract and mysterious.
What quality do you most admire in another artist?
For whom do you make your work?
LGBTQueer Black people.
What piece of art has resonated most for you during the past several months?
I have been really into the work of Shikeith. They're a multidisciplinary artist primarily working in installation and photography. Their work lives in our home, titled Prince, 2019. Their recent body of work centers around ideas and feeling about queerness, Blackness, and baptism.