The Hudson Valley is bustling with artists who create artwork using funky and eccentric media. Chicago-born Tina Chaden is a perfect example of an artist who turned passion into art.
In her early days, Chaden gained a multi-faceted skill-set through art training at the Art Institute of Chicago and, later, at the College of Art and Design in Minneapolis, from which she earned her BFA. Through that training, she honed her focus on ideas and concepts more than on material.
“Instead of sitting in front of a blank canvas, I work by responding to what’s outside of myself. I get an idea to communicate something and figure out the best medium,” she says.
Graduating college meant moving to New York, no questions asked. Using video as a medium, Chaden got noticed by the Kitchen Gallery in New York City. After two years of making documentaries, which can be found at the Lincoln Center Library, movie-making turned into prop-making. Editorial magazines like Better Homes and Time loved her works and put them on their covers.
Around that time, Chaden realized she needed more space, so she packed her bags and moved upstate.
“Since I was able to move back to the country, I was able to get back to creating art,” she says. To date, Chaden has been living in the Hudson Valley for more than 27 years. In the quiet of the region, she finds inspiration in the heart of nature.
For her 2018 “Light & Found” exhibition, which featured at the Athens Cultural Center, for example, she struck upon her theme while walking alongside the water near Catskill. The theme centered around bees, wasps, and the notion of open space. In the exhibit, the fluorescent ceiling lights gave Chaden the idea to create honeycombs, which she crafted out of acetate, spray paint, tape, and craft paper. The show was topped off with a musical interlude of swarming bees to go along with the theme. “
I ended up selling half the show. A lot of pieces are in homes already,” she notes.
When it comes to constructing art pieces, Chaden is all about re-purposing different materials while keeping the same structure. Her wall wasp piece, title “Inside Out,” included wasp engravings placed in the back of glass.
“Every wasp nest has its own signature,” she explains. “I noticed the differences and wanted to find a way to point that out.”
As a result of her jaunts throughout the Hudson Valley, she often brings home pieces of bark or wood. She avoids painting over anything she finds outside, instead opting to maintain the integrity of the piece.
“I make sure not to eliminate anything about what I find that attracted me in the first place, which is its form, color, and structure. They’re all natural,” she observes.
In a similar vein, so too are the workings of wasps and artists.
“The wasps construct their homes and it’s exactly what I do,” Chaden explains. “I go out into the woods and in my backyard and I construct something that’s in my environment.”
More recently, Chaden has turned her focus to incorporating natural materials into small purses. She’s currently working on easy-to-ship, wearable jewelry and prints.
“I’m re-purposing paintings and looking at them as raw material. It’s still in the baby stages.Thinking in terms of jewelry is very practical.”
For more information or to browse Chaden’s designs, visit her Etsy shop.