Artist of the Week

Chad States

October 6, 2022

Chad State's interdisciplinary practice straddles the polarities between dream and reality, interior and exterior, private and public, the abject and sublime. Through the use of narrative, light, color and sound, States creates spaces that hold together contradictions as a way of reconciling differences. States earned an MFA from Tyler School of Art in 2007 and was an active member of Vox Populi, an art collective based in Philadelphia from 2013-2018, as well as exhibiting nationally in venues that include Space Gallery (Portland ME), Vox Populi (Philadelphia PA), Napoleon (Philadelphia PA), Blue Sky Gallery (Portland OR), ClampArt (New York, NY), and Greg Kucera (Seattle WA). His book Cruising was published in the fall of 2011 by Powerhouse Books and was short listed as one of the best new photo books in 2012 by Aperture Foundation and Paris Photo. He has an Artist in Residence at the Philadelphia Photographic Arts Center in 2013 as well as Light Work in 2009. His work has been written about in publications such as Modern Painters and Vice.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.

I am a person who likes to reconcile contradictions.

From ๐˜›๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜–๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ, 2022, Photograph

What artworks / artists do you draw inspiration from?

Anything that expresses spirit. The form varies greatly.

I am intrigued by the visceral yet somewhat obscured way you approach sexuality within your photographs. What is your approach to crafting and/or capturing images?

It depends on the project. For Cruising I was looking for a specific light, a light that is warm and seductive, while attempting to keep the viewer at an erotic distance. The kind of distance that creates desire, a distance that is an invitation to action.

From ๐˜Š๐˜ณ๐˜ถ๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ, 2011, Photograph

I am curious about the way the camera operates as an observer of the scene, specifically in your ”Cruising” series. In what ways, if any, do you consider the camera as a participant in what you are depicting?

In Cruising the camera was often a catalyst for the scenes that I photographed. Photographing was a way that I played. Most of the photographs of scenes that are at a distance didnโ€™t start at that position. I almost always begin by physically interacting with the subjects or using the camera to demonstrate sexual interest, though I never show those photographs. Part of cruising is about anonymity and secrecy, but another part of cruising is exhibitionism.ย  The photographs are trying to reconcile this contradiction.

Install Shot of ๐˜“๐˜ฐ๐˜ท๐˜ฆ ๐˜š๐˜ฉ๐˜ฐ๐˜ธ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜”๐˜ฆ ๐˜ž๐˜ฉ๐˜ฐ ๐˜ž๐˜ข๐˜ด ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜‰๐˜ฐ๐˜ด๐˜ด, 2016

What is your process for finding models to work with? Is it important for you to have a personal relationship with them?

Every project requires a different approach to finding the models.ย  It is not important to me whether I know them at all.ย  Intimacy does not require time, it can be had immediately.

๐˜œ๐˜ฏ๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ (๐˜š๐˜ถ๐˜ฏ๐˜ณ๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ฆ), 2016, Video

There is a re-occurring theme of the Sun in your works (”Untitled (Sunrise)”, ”I AM THE SUN”); what does the symbol of the sun mean to you and your work?

In the most basic sense the sun provides light, the sun is generative and the provider of many pleasures, but most of my suns double as expanding anuses, the place to receive pleasure.ย  So they function both as transmitters and receivers, as tops and bottoms, as male energy and female energy.

๐˜ ๐˜ˆ๐˜” ๐˜›๐˜๐˜Œ ๐˜š๐˜œ๐˜•!, 2018, neon, body cast, ladder

How has your art practice changed and evolved over the years?

My practice began solely with photography but after a few years feeling limited by the medium, the work began to seep in other directions.ย  I moved into sculpture and installation, as a way to talk about pleasure in a more experiential way that a flat photograph canโ€™t provide.ย  I discovered my love of color then.ย  Though I am always making an image, whether it is a sculpture or a photograph, and light is always paramount.

Installation shot of ๐˜›๐˜ฐ๐˜จ๐˜ฆ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ ๐˜ž๐˜ฆ ๐˜‹๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ข๐˜ฎ ๐˜”๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜บ ๐˜‹๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ข๐˜ฎ๐˜ด, 2016

Any guilty pleasures?

I donโ€™t believe in guilty pleasures.ย  I believe that you should honestly enjoy what gives you pleasure without guilt or shame.ย  Guilt and shame are a waste of time.

What are you currently reading?

I am re-reading Michael Pollens โ€œHow to change your mindโ€

From ๐˜›๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜–๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ, 2022, Photograph

Any upcoming projects you are excited about?

I just released a new photobook called The One.ย  It traces a psychosexual hero’s journey.ย  It is a book about love.

Interview conducted and edited by Ben Herbert.