‘My parents are creative and both worked with their hands. They were friends with artists and creative people. One of their friends was a painter and from a young age, I spent time in that studio. This was in Paducah, Kentucky in the late 1980s. My dad did custom carpentry restoring Victorian riverfront buildings. The painter friend and my mom, amongst others, ended up founding an art framing cooperative where artists would also rent studios. It was an exciting environment to be in.
In Paducah, there is a quilt museum, an annual quilt festival, an active fiber tradition, and many fiber artists. I’m a magpie: I’ll keep scraps and fragments of material I touched years ago if they were beautiful and made me feel a certain way. Occasionally, I’ll come across a quilting scrap and be filled with the energy it carries.‘I love being present in different places, experiencing what’s there and what lingers. I lived in Chicago for a long time; there, I felt influenced by the old warehouses in post-industrial districts. There’s something humbling about being at an edge of a place, after its heyday. The works of art that most influenced me are from the Art Institute of Chicago. I could name so many: Archibald Motley’s Nightlife , Leon Golub’s Interrogation II , Gertrude Abercrombie’s The Past and the Present [c. 1945], Georgia O’Keeffe’s Sky Above Clouds IV . I went to school there and had the pleasure of frequenting this incredible museum and being mesmerized by its beautiful paintings.
Another place that is a big part of my life is Mexico City, which feels like a massive painting. The human touch is everywhere. People relate to the built environment in a completely different way than in the US. A decaying cement wall might be patched up with bathroom tiles that are hand-painted or feature an obscure printed pattern from the 1960s. Also, the way people trellis plants – there’s just so much gesture in the city.
‘I’m living in the Catskill Mountains now. The sky is this brilliant baby blue and all of the orange leaves are crisp and psychedelic against it. The seasonal cycles, the cycles of life and death, are super present here. In winter, it’s completely still. Every moment in the Catskills, I feel aware of my finitude but also of life and how fragile and mysterious that dichotomy is.‘I love how paintings are records of the past. I enjoy looking back at a piece from ten years ago and clearly seeing what I’d been thinking and feeling. It’s a way of knowing yourself over time.
‘Painting was always an option for me. When I left school, I was into performance but, within a few years, painting became part of the performances. I was working at a family-run paint and wallpaper store in Chicago at the time; my first job in Paducah had also been at a paint store. I color matched and mixed paint based on weird things people brought in – like a banana peel or a faded sweater. Later, I worked nights for a decorative painting company. We painted trompe-l’oeil scenes and historic wallpapers that are no longer produced. I learned more about the craft of painting from my coworkers than in school.‘To this day, crayon is probably my number one tool. I doodle and sketch a lot, and make underdrawings with crayons. It’s the most powerful, simple medium. Crockett Johnson’s Harold and the Purple Crayon  is one of my favorite books. I totally live by the possibility that any reality can be created with a crayon. The space of art is where anything can be imagined, where your wildest, unknown desires can be found and expressed.
this day, crayon is probably my number one tool. I doodle and sketch a lot, and make underdrawings with crayons. It’s the most powerful, simple medium. Crockett Johnson’s Harold and the Purple Crayon  is one of my favorite books. I totally live by the possibility that any reality can be created with a crayon. The space of art is where anything can be imagined, where your wildest, unknown desires can be found and expressed.
Chelsea Culprit is represented by Morán Morán, Los Angeles and Mexico City; Queer Thoughts, New York City; and Galeria Revolver, Lima, Buenos Aires, and New York City.Fiona Alison Duncan is a Canadian-American author and organizer. She is the founding host of Hard to Read, a literary social practice.Captions for full-bleed images: 1. Desktop view: Chelsea Culprit, Petting Zoo in Evening Shade, 2022 (detail). Mobile view: Chelsea Culprit, Noctámbula as Self-Perpetuating Perpetual Motion Machine, 2022 (detail). Both images courtesy of the artist and Queer Thoughts, New York City. 2. Chelsea Culprit, Flirtatious Preteen Fantasma of a Transcendental Algorithm,Unbound from Function or Cause, 2020 (detail). Courtesy of Morán Morán. 3. Installation view of Chelsea Culprit's exhibition 'Figures in Ritual Time', Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Photo by Aurélien Mole. 4. Chelsea Culprit, Icarina Descending the Canopy, 2022 (detail). Courtesy of Morán Morán.
ced. I learned more about the craft of painting from my coworkers than in school.