Chelsea Weathers / Santa Fe, NM, USA
Chelsea Weathers is a writer living in Santa Fe, NM. Her art writing has been published in Art Papers, Artforum, Criticism, Gulf Coast, Hyperallergic, The Magazine, and elsewhere. She has a PhD in art history from the University of Texas at Austin, where she wrote a dissertation about the films of Andy Warhol.
|While living in Austin, TX, I worked for five years at a humanities archive at UT-Austin, which specializes in twentieth century art and literature. During my time there, I honed my interest in archival materials and visual culture–the ephemera that often accompanies creative production and which enriches our understanding of the creative process and the constructed nature of artworks and their reception. Along with archival research, my interest in political, cultural, and institutional systems has informed my most recent work. My current project is a series of essays about my mother’s experience as a Vietnamese refugee and her assimilation into the American South in the 1970s. This work is a departure from my art writing, but continues my interest in marrying close visual analyses of material culture with personal narrative. For these essays, my archive is a personal one. I culled oral histories from my mother, photographs from the Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, refugee camp where she was housed in 1975, and other materials from my research into the history of Birmingham, Alabama, where my mother was eventually placed and where I grew up. The goal of this project is to represent a personal narrative of immigration—specifically one that involves my mother’s process of assimilation, which in turn affected my early life as a biracial, second-generation child.|
Although I live and work in Santa Fe, during the month that I was at SFAI, I cut my work hours down significantly, and spent several hours almost every morning in my studio. I tried to treat this residency like a job in itself—a luxury that the distractions of daily life often don’t afford me. I was able to fill two steno notepads with writing. These are rough narratives that I will now endeavor to shape into crafted essays. The rigors of my time at the SFAI studio—the simple act of writing every day for hours—allowed me to time-travel back to my early childhood, to excavate memories and to dwell on my memories of my mother, who in the 1980s barely spoke English and had to navigate the cultural whiplash of finding herself in one of the most conservative and least welcoming regions of the US for immigrants.
I also gave a reading early in my residency, with the other residents. This was the first time I had shared any of my writing for this project with anyone. The encouragement I received from my cohort and the staff of SFAI has been invaluable as I navigate these essays.