MUNTHE ART MONDAY: HEATHER CHONTOS
Please introduce yourself and tell us about what you do.
Hello, my name is Heather Chontos. I am a professional artist originally from the Hudson Valley area of New York, but I live permanently in Southwestern France. I was a set designer and creative director for nearly twenty years in London, New York and LA for magazines and film. I had my first solo show in London when I was 23 but got frightened by so much uncertainty and didn’t come back to exhibit until many years later. I was always painting and drawing but didn’t commit fully until 2008 when my second daughter was born. It was a terrifying decision, but the best one I ever made.
Could you explain more about how being a woman has affected your career?
There is a lot about being a woman that affects my career, mostly the fact that I am a single mother of two daughters. The burden of responsibility for another human being’s life is something I have known since I was 21, so my entire adult life has been a compromise of how I work and integrate that into being a mother. As for the rest, I don’t pay attention to anything other than what feels right for me and my family, I am not likely to let much get in the way of my drive or my path.
Can you name some other female (artist) that inspires you and explain why they do so?
I have always thought that Joan Mitchell was an impressive female artist, not just for her large-scale beautiful paintings, but for how she navigated a very man-centric world in NYC at a time that didn’t give a lot of notice to women abstract artists. She was a part of the beginning of something that would pave the way for other female artists. She also moved to France and made a life independent of any concept of what she was “supposed to do”. In a film about her life, she claims that in France, they would call her “sauvage” meaning wild, I love that!
What has been the most challenging aspect of being a female artist?
Honestly, its again the motherhood issue. There are many days where I would like to fully immerse myself in my studio and get lost in my creative world and maybe not surface for a day or two, but that is not an option when you have to make dinner or breakfast or help with homework or listen to stories of the day’s dramas at school. I have found a way to balance it out and still find my hours during school days to lose myself in my work, but there is always the mother voice in my head which keeps you aware on another level, to all your surroundings. So painting is truly a deep meditation for me that reflects a very deep inner part of myself. Who knows, maybe this focus wouldn’t be possible without the challenge of being a mother, maybe it is through the challenge that I have found my strength and my voice in art.
What would you like people to notice in your artwork?
That it is true love and observation of the natural world that is put into every painting, drawing or sculpture that I make, that it comes from a place of truth and a passion for freedom of expression in everything I do.
Heather is wearing our DAWSON jacket and DAVIS cardigan.