My own Poison and my own Cure. – Interview with Sandra Chevrier.
Tell Us a bit about growing up in Canada.
What was it like with family, friends in your hometown, and some of your inspiration leading up to your career today?
I come from the Suburbs a bit up North of Montreal, Canada. When I was young there were still loads of forests in this little town called Rosemere. We would build tree houses with our neighbors and do caterpillars hunts and reward those who would catch the most, there were hundreds of them. I liked exploring nature, leaves and rocks, and insects.
I have always been into Crafts. When I was little, I would draw with my Aunt instead of playing cards with the rest of the family. I was a very quiet and shy kid. At one point, when I was a teenager, I needed a way to release my inner demons. So Art became my way of expression, my language. I learned from Artbooks and Magazines and hours of practice. My first job was in a restaurant and I would work in the cloakroom. People would come in around 4-5 pm, I would take their coats, and then for hours sit at my tiny table and draw until 2-3 am.
Is there an individual that resonates with you, from the past that helped shape the artist you are today?
For me, it’s less in words and more through images. Art to me has always been a universal language. At 14, I entered a gallery in the Old Port of Montreal. I was attracted to a painting called “Detritus Of Devotion” by Canadian artist Heidi Taillefer. I was so drawn to it when all of a sudden I experienced a rush of emotion inside of me, and I started to cry. That’s when I understood the power of Art.
I love that!! I felt the same way when I saw the Sistine chapel for the first time. What qualities or adjectives would best describe you as an individual?
I am so many things and I think in certain ways I am; like my work: a Dichotomy.
I am strong but also scared of everything and anxious. I am determined and efficient but emotional and shy. I am a dreamer and passionate but I am also organized, independent, and always on time. I crave Solitude but cannot live without laughter and cuddles. It’s so hard for me to trust but when I let you in, I give you all. I am patient and impatient. I am proud of myself but also am my worst enemy. I am Fire, but I can be cold as ice. A Fragile Wolf… The beauty and the beast, I am my own poison and also my own cure.
I AM MY OWN CURE
“I am the results of risks I took. Of dust settling on my past. Of heart breaks and broken friendship and promises. Of trusting too much or not enough. Of loving unconditionally or not loving as much. Of losing and grieving. Laughing uncontrollably and from crying till I fell asleep. I am the result of my consequences. Of the bad decisions and all the good ones that put me back on the right track. The scars, the inspirations and those who looked down on me and those who praised me. Of the kisses on my skin and those canvases I painted over. From the son I have and what he taught me.
These things that I hate about me and those I Love, they come from my past, my present and my Dreams.”
[Credit NIKA KRAMER Berlin Biennale – Urban Nation 2019]
We are the poison. We are the cure.
The environment I was given for the Urban Nation Berlin Biennale project was a 32 square meters desert space. I imagined a post-apocalyptic time. The aftermath of the end of the world or at least the end of the earth as we know it. No resources, no humans, no life. Working on this project in a critical time where the vital signs of the earth are threatened by ever-growing wildfires, the continuing global warming, and ocean acidification.
I wanted to tell a tale of hope, in this time when we feel that the earth and everything might die. We humans, are waiting for someone stronger, more powerful, and more resourceful than us to make a change. Or that some kind of Superhero with great powers will save us and save the planet. Save it from our mistakes and the disasters that we have caused. Meanwhile, we are doing nothing, when in fact we could be the ones saving it. Saving us and the future generations. Let’s change the way we see things. Experience life a different way. Let’s fall in love with the planet again, and look at everything she gave us. Let’s embrace our most spectacular horizons and species, knowing that we are the lucky ones who can experience them with deep feelings and emotions.
What we have destroyed, we can rectify. We are the Superheroes.
I use comic books in most of my works and often will attempt to tell a story. In this particular project, I chose images of our friendly neighborhood hero Spider-Man but also used Venom, his worst enemy. They are representing humans as the poison but also as the cure.
A humongous installation on the historical Olympic Stadium of Berlin partnering with the band The National during Lollapalooza and curated by Yasha Young. Every banner measured 8×4 meters. The complete installation was 120 meters long in 2018.
Earlier this year you painted one of the biggest murals in Austin Texas with Obey.
“The Beauty of Liberty and Equality.” Can you talk to us about the process? What was it like working with the team and Obey?
Yes, it actually is the largest mural in Austin, Texas! I was very honored to be the first woman artist to collaborate with Shepard Fairey.
Shepard is a great artist, a great thinker, a great communicator, who was extremely generous and comforting throughout the process.
It was my first big Mural and he put a lot of trust in me. I came up with a sketch and after a couple of meetings, I did a photoshoot for reference and sent it to him. He put his magic touch into it and ended with what you can now see on the 12 stories building, The Line Hotel. We wanted to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment which gave women the right to vote. It was important for it to be created by a man and a woman together to show that we can be allies and work together in support and fight for our rights too! We were very lucky to be able to start and finish the mural because Covid happened right around then. The day after I came back to Canada they closed the borders and the world became very different.
Glad you made it safely home. What was it like hanging out in Austin, Texas? Do you have any fun, memorable experiences you can share with us?
Lots of great moments with Shepard and his team and my assistants. I remember having dinner at a steakhouse. My assistant almost choked on a hot pepper and the other guys found it laughable and thought he was exaggerating. They all decided to try as well and suddenly started sweating and turning red. I didn’t taste it… probably wouldn’t have made it.
After dinner, we all went to the LongPlay Lounge. It was a great night, with great conversations, and lots of laughter. I also really enjoyed a night at the Continental Club where we got to see the Peterson Brothers play Live.
Looking back what were some of the obstacles you had to face and how did you tackle them?
Time was an obstacle, there were some delays at first and Shepard’s team had to start first before I could do my part of the mural and I ended up having a lot less time than I prepared for. We also had a rainy day where it was impossible to work. For the most part, everything ended up going very smoothly. It was fun listening to music with my assistants and looking at the beautiful landscape of Austin from 100 feet high!
What do you want young women to embrace moving forward?
Herself. I want women to accept their flaws and mistakes and accept who we are cause we are only human, and imperfections are perfection.