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Xavier Schipani
Xavier Schipani
Xavier Schipani
Xavier Schipani
Xavier Schipani
Xavier Schipani
Xavier Schipani
Xavier Schipani
Xavier Schipani
Xavier Schipani


interview: Kate Holley
video: Lindsey Lee
images: courtesy Xavier Schipani

I first met Xavier on a shockingly beautiful day in mid October. A few of us had convened at her house to film her working on her latest installation endeavor but our plans had almost been cancelled because of that morning's weather forecast. Everyone was taken aback by this grey, overcast day that had so suddenly turned into a truly stunning afternoon. Wind chimes were clinking wildly in the distance amidst the hint of a year or so old single by The Horrors blaring from the backyard of a neighboring house. What started off as work quickly became, “Oh my god, are you seeing this shot?”

Nothing about the scenery was particularly moving-- a mostly untidy backyard littered with a few bike tires, a deflated blow-up pool and a not-so-regal, lonely Buddha statue. Xavier’s patent leather Doc Martens seemed to glow in the sun, especially against the dirt and fall leaves cluttering the ground. “I usually work really late at night, when I’m most awake,” she tells us as she sets up a clunky wooden bench and table directly in the sunlight. She begins painting meticulous stark black patterns on a bright white triangular piece of wood she had sanded earlier. Watching the clean black lines effortlessly flow from the tip of her brush is nothing short of hypnotizing, despite the sounds of a growing swarm of grackles and the start of 4o’clock traffic a block away.

As Xavier recounts stories of her neighborhood bodegas in New York and living in France, the rest of us seem to be temporarily charmed. We’re mesmerized and comforted by what we are witnessing… snapping out of my hypnosis, I take a step towards the camera to peek at what we have so far. One glance and I can immediately tell: everyone is proud to be a part of this, and everyone agrees, “ This day is beautiful and this shot of Xavier painting is just… beautiful.”

What appeals to you about primarily working in black and white? What attracted you, as in your recent work, to working with wood?

I like the simplicity of working in black and white, and I like using different patterns to create the illusion of color or vibrancy of color. I have always been attracted to black and white color theories of Ellsworth Kelly and Joseph Albers, but I think what really got me hooked was taking a traditional sumi-ink painting class. I learned a lot about the relationship between the body and the work, it was really cool. So for me it isn't a stretch to work with wood, I have done it before and actually worked as a carpenter for some time. It is nice to be doing something 3-D for a change though.

How long did you live in France and what did you enjoy most about the culture there?

I lived in AIX-EN-PROVENCE, FR for about a year, and studied at the Center for Art and Culture. I was working on a lot of erotic gender explorative drawings while I was there and I loved how accepting and constructive the environment was to my work. I think the response would have been totally different, and has been to other work I have done in the U.S. I felt like my voice changed after living there and after reading a lot of french theory about body and gender.

What is one of the craziest adventures you've ever had while living abroad?

One of my craziest adventures would half to be going to a french horror film festival at the Pompidou in Paris. It was a walking exhibit so there were no seats, and the whole museum was dark. It was beautiful and to me, very dream like, frightening and calming at the same time. It lead me to a group of younger artists from Marseille who were on holiday and invited me to travel with them to Nice, which is one of the coolest cities I have ever been to.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

First of all, RIP Cy Twombly, one of the greats. Ellsworth Kelly for Color Theory, Robert Gober, Katharina Fritsch, Maurizio Cattelan, George Brecht, Yves Klein, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Dynasty Handbag, Terrence Koh, Matthew Barney's Cremaster Cycle, The Egyptians and Bauhaus artists for text and construction.

What is your ideal painting soundtrack?

Older Italian Horror Films and Surf Rock.

Do you think of your artwork as more of a means of personal expression or commentary/exploration of specific themes? Or both? Or neither!?

I would have to say both. My work has changed over the years – it is still personal but in a very removed way. Most of the themes I am displaying are an attempt to recreate memories and associations that can be personal and collective. I think that there is an overwhelming sense of urgency to be and create nostalgia in visual art, fashion and music now more than ever, and that really interests me. I think a great deal of it has to do with a loss of physical connection and identity, which are themes that I explore in my work along with learning to create moods with abstract shapes and color.

As an artist your artwork is constantly being interpreted by others. Have there been instances where viewers inaccurately label or try to categorize your artwork? How do you feel about that?

Sometimes people refer to my work as illustration, which I don't really like. I don't consider myself to be an illustrator, and I think that it gives my work a commercial connotation, which in my mind is not how I see it.

Can you explain the significance of some of the common wordage used in your artwork, like "Metal Ghost"?

I think this question ties into my thoughts on creating collective nostalgia, with a personal agenda. I want people to share my urgency to create and recreate moods… with a simple phrase like "Metal Ghost," I think that it is accomplished.

Are there any new projects or plans you're looking forward to in the next year?

My partner and I are working on starting our own clothing line. She has a background in fashion, so she will most likely be designing the shapes and I will be working on images/text. I am working on some new pieces and a couple of installation projects as well. I am hoping to do an outdoor piece if I can find the right spot.

+ Xavier Schipani website

there is an overwhelming sense of urgency to be and create nostalgia in visual art, fashion and music now more than ever.

Xavier Schipani