Chelsea Schmidt: A Minimalist Relationship of Untapped Potential

Curatorial Statement and installation by Leigh Cline
 
Freshly laundered and greenmy suit of armour
protects me as I traverse the forest.
Today, in the clearing, I first meet Bear.
……
Consuming thoughts of Him crowded my mind,
of course I returned.
My armour I left at home, Bear will protect me in the night.
……
Our third time together Bear and I,
we speak of trivialities, my serious thoughts sticking to my tongue.
But then Bear’s attention strays; he caught the scent of something better.
……
And so I took the sweet seed of potential,
that in such minimal time had grown so large within my thoughts,
and buried it deep, deep in the ground.
Its sprout would never reach the surface.
I also left behind my armour, so the two might die together.
 

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Installation shot from Profiles 2012.

 

Chelsea Schmidt’s series A Minimalistic Relationship of Untapped Potential of watercolour and pencil crayon on board and paper and sculptural paper elements are combined with text to create a poetic narrative about a girl and her chance meeting with a bear. The works ring of nostalgia: a childhood story with beautifully illustrated accompaniments to the writings. In this case, Chelsea focuses on the visual narrative and fills in the gaps with text so bittersweet that, upon experiencing, the audience is left with a sugared metallic taste in its mouth.

The series reads left to right and begins with an introduction to the characters and the setting. Like any good narrative, the author plans out carefully with sketches. We, the audience, are introduced to the girl and Bear and the outdoor landscape in which the story takes place. Through the written companion to the sketches, we learn that the girl wears her protective green suit when venturing out into the rocky, yet barren landscape and first meets Bear.  img_0005This suit, a metaphor for the protection the girl looks for in her relationship with Bear, is shed once she understands that he will not hurt her. As the audience continues to read onwards, through text and imagery, we learn that Bear may not be as much of a protector as the girl hoped, as his attention towards her is fleeting. Learning this information, the girl accepts the demise of the relationship and buries with it, the layer of protection that she sought from him. Bear disappears and the girl curls up in defeat; a sad ending to what could have been a promising relationship. The artist identifies this breakdown and affirms, “Because I began to realize that the greatest loss was the potential for what could have been; the potential for communication, compatibility, the sharing of space and ideas, the collision of two separate spheres of living merging and somehow co-existing”.

Chelsea’s choice of layered watercolour and pencil crayon helps to create a soft quality of lines and colours that entices the viewer to look a little closer. The images are not bold and they challenge the viewer to pay more attention and listen more carefully. img_0011The viewer cannot simply rush through this reading, as there is a thoughtfulness that one must bring to the experience. They are minimal in their composition; a quality which again recalls the illustrations of children’s stories. Using panel board, Chelsea was further able to explore the media and create a softness through the absorption of the pencil and watercolour into the wood surface. She identifies that though an interesting surface to work on, the panel board does not img_0013allow much room for mistakes, since once the paint or crayon is applied it cannot be easily removed or covered. To avoid mistakes, Chelsea came up with a process to transfer figures from her sketchbook to the boards. She first photocopied the characters onto tracing paper, then coated the lines of the figures with pencil crayon. She then laid the tracing paper onto the board and pressed onto the lines with the pencil crayon, creating a transfer with no errors. Chelsea then penciled and painted layer upon layer to create each of the works on panel board.

img_0014Throughout the creation process, Chelsea, while planning and painting, tried to hold onto the emotions which she wanted the viewer to experience and hoped to successfully channel those emotions through the works. The emotions she attempted to channel were feelings of great potential, attraction, curiosity, innocence, and in the end, loss. The addition of the sewn seeds and dress create a more physical or three-dimensional symbol of lost potential. Chelsea’s narrative, though personal in nature, reminds each of us that our experiences are similar; that we as beings hope, work towards realization and sometimes, sadly, do not succeed.