Merry psychedelic drills explode on the walls of the Eric Mouchet gallery in Paris (VIe). Woven on a crochet hook with a thick thread, these funny creatures, sort of shaggy elves, straight out of Caroline Wells Chandler’s imagination, dance in circles, make entrechats, levitate and spread their legs, a bit exhibitionist. Vulva, anus and penis close-up, hair in the wind, smile on the lips, the crochet works of the American artist give off a furiously optimistic sexual energy and a communicative joie de vivre. For little, we would see them hanging out of the wall to wiggle their buttocks in the room.

Born in 1985 in Virginia, raised in Texas in a conservative family and resident of Queens in New York, Caroline Wells Chandler defines himself as a “Trans boi”, like queer. He learned to knit with his grandmother, then to crochet at the university, very happy today to use a technique in accordance with a fluid sexuality: the word queer means “twisted”, like the thread that you bend in the hook. Because if the artist has never become the woman his family wanted him to be – he is attached to the masculine pronoun – Caroline Wells Chandler realizes “ladies’ works” or patience works (embroidery, pastry, decoration and crochet ), a way for him to stay calm, to share time with those he loves (embroidering allows to have a conversation) and to work at home, which painting does not allow, solitary enterprise.

Challenging conventional wisdom with Dionysian works that celebrate queer sexuality, this delights the artist, who compares his works to large sandwiches or “Pies” (“Pies”) packed with references. By pulling a thread, the ball of his inspirations comes: the children’s illustrator Maurice Sendak (Max and the Maximonsters), filmmaker Kenneth Anger, the film Labyrinth (1986) with David Bowie, the Gremlins, tarot deck by artist Pamela Colman Smith, guru Terence McKenna, Tibetan paintings …

For this exhibition, Caroline Wells Chandler was inspired by the Isenheim altarpiece by Matthias Grünewald, polyptych from the XVIe century exhibited in Colmar. One of the panels in the painting describes the fight of Saint Anthony against “The fire of Saint Anthony” or “Burning sickness”, a disease caused by the microscopic fungus of the rye grain. This disease plagued the body and gave hallucinations to the sick (LSD, by the way, is a derivative of the parasite). And of this fight against demons, Caroline Wells Chandler, alchemist of mischievous designs and soft materials, makes it a prolific celebration, a happy carnival. Remember that discrimination against LGBTQ people is common in Texas, the artist’s home state. Either way, Wells Chandler says he is totally “Open” to all possible interpretations of his work, like his characters with gaping orifices.

Clementine Mercier

Caroline Wells Chandler St Anthony’s Fire Galerie Eric Mouchet, 75006. Until March 7.


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