November 1, 2015

Artist Profile: Lisette Chavez

You Were Just a Baby. Lithograph. Image Courtesy of the Artist

Lisette Chavez creates haunting images and elaborate installations that explore her childhood experiences with funerals and the process of mourning, as well as the feelings of guilt associated with the Catholic ritual of confession. Through her work, Chavez "seeks to find beauty in those things which we fear and make art about what we cannot explain."

Read on to learn more about Chavez's work and influences.

View of My First Confession installation. Image Courtesy of the Artist. 

What are some of the influences on your work and artistic practice?

Some of my childhood memories have made a lasting impression on the way I perceive the world and my work. 

Most of my lithographs are from a body of work titled, Early Mourning. My mother is the youngest of thirteen children and often took me to funerals of my extended family. I was too young to understand those situations but I think I became very fascinated with the human body, mourning and death. 

As I entered my teens I was eager to discuss these topics, and I noticed how I made people uncomfortable when I’d bring them up; it bothered me. By making that body of work I was able to create a dialogue about an experience that is going to be inevitable for everyone. 


At eight years old I lied at my first confession and I’ve felt guilty about it since. In my latest installation, My First Confession, I created a shrine-like space, which detailed my experience growing up in a conservative and Catholic household. The piece was a way for me to finally confess to my viewers. It’s alluring and disturbing, but I felt that this would convey the unease between purity, seduction and evil. Some parts of it are humorous and others are not, but life is that way. 

Details from My First Confession installation. Images Courtesy of the Artist. 
What drives you as an artist? What are you passionate about that you're able to express through your art? 

I think some of us just have an innate desire to make things, no matter which medium. I can’t speak for all artists since we all have different personal experiences and artistic processes but I tend to go through phases where I obsess about specific ideas or memories. I can be at a mall, see someone’s shirt and it will trigger me back to that same idea. It’s kind of like a complicated pattern. The more pieces you find, the more that initial idea starts to make sense. Not sure why this happens but it’s happened to me all my life. 

A psychiatrist once purchased some of my work and bluntly asked me, “So what happened to you?” I didn’t know what she meant specifically but after a bit of questioning back an forth she said, “You are trying to recreate the experience.” So maybe there is a little of that in why some artists make art. 

When I create my work, it’s mostly for myself; it gives me time to reflect and meditate on my thoughts. When I feel like I’m ready to share my work with others, I do, but I also make work that I don’t show to anyone. 

It’s a great experience to be able to share your ideas with others. It’s really motivating and a transformation begins. In the beginning, I knew that the work was mostly for me but it has a great way of helping people connect with one another. It eventually becomes part of everyone else too. I think it’s really special when you get to connect with a complete stranger. 

View of Artist's Studio and Collection of Objects. Photo Courtesy of the Artist. 

Where you do find inspiration? 

I am a collector of religious art, medical ephemera and obscurities. I grew up with a ton of religious and botanical iconography in my home so it’s definitely fed some of my aesthetic. In my spare time I love going to antique stores and looking for my next treasure. 

Which artists do you admire most, and why? 

I have a huge appreciation for artists who work in themes regarding the human condition, Catholicism, as well as works that are intricate and over-the-top. Ivan Albright, Joe Coleman, Dr. Lakra and Winnie Truong are a few of my favorites. Right now I am really into a Polish painter named Aleksandra Waliszewska. Her work is unsettling but it comes from a very genuine place. To me, her imagery seems like a never-ending nightmare, one where I cannot wake up. 

Detail from My First Confession installation. Images Courtesy of the Artist. 

Chavez will be exhibiting some of her lithographs and drawings with the Lullwood Group on November 14, 2015. You can see more of Chavez's two-dimensional work and installations on her website at  Instagram users can follow her @holy_press to see photos of projects in progress. 

Transience. Lithograph. Image Courtesy of the Artist.