We had the good fortune of connecting with Kristen Chen and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kristen, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Risk has played an important part of my creative journey. I have been a professional musician all of my adult life, so risk is a huge component in performance. Every time I walk out onto the stage, I face the critique of the audience. No matter how I feel inside, it’s essential that I walk out in confidence, greet my audience with a smile and play my heart.
Risk also plays a big part in my more recent endeavors as an artist. While music has always been my life, my work in art is fairly recent. I’ve always loved art, but never thought it was something I could be good at. I started with a class in 2015 that spurred my love and commitment to pursue painting, and now 6 years later I am showing and selling my art.
Risk has been a huge factor for me, because in art you have to put yourself out there. I feel like I am hanging my heart on the wall when I show my work. There is the added element of being a “self-taught” artist, and I have struggled with feeling validated as a “real” artist. I have risked by showing my work locally in my hometown, and it has been worth it, working through my own inner struggles to share my art with the world.
The response to my art has been validating as I continue to show and sell work both in the town I live in and online. I know that my true voice comes through in my art and that I am able to communicate and express my deepest thoughts and feelings in a way that is completely different than my music.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
All of my art tells a story. When I begin a piece, I start with an idea, emotion, poem or significant event. I am usually either celebrating something or working through something through my art. Often, I will finish a piece and receive feedback about how it affected a viewer, and what they tell me is even deeper and more powerful than I knew. I believe that my art has a life of its own, and that it knows more than I do. I believe that, when I do art, I serve the art in a way. I mean that there is something much bigger going on and that I get to be a part of it.
The biggest lesson I have learned is not to compare myself with other artists. When I do that, everything falls flat. Also, that I must have the right mindset when I enter into the artmaking process. If I feel any negative emotion surrounding the art, it also falls flat. When I create in great love and freedom, my art flows and takes on a life of its own.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Well, my best friend just moved here, so that is easy. We would start the morning with coffee, of course. I would take her to Taste Coffee at 11st street station in Durango. We would sit outside and watch the people walk along Main Street. One day, I would take her on a local hike such as the Colorado Trail and land at Gudy’s Rest to take in the view and a snack. Or we would hike up Raider Ridge to see the view of the whole town. On another day, I would drive her to Silverton, but stop in the middle at Molas to take in the amazing view of the mountains. In Silverton, we would get funnelcakes. Then I would take her over Red Mountain Pass, one of the scariest drives in America, and end up in Ouray, and soak in the hot springs. On another day, we would walk around town and shop in Main Street, stopping in the art galleries and some of my favorite stores such as Lively Boutique or Urban Market. We would have lunch on the corner of Main and College at Michel’s Corner Crepes, a food truck with the best crepes I have ever tasted. We would finish out the day with a lovely dinner at my favorite restaurant, Ken N Sue’s, which I’ve been eating at as long as I’ve lived here, nearly 20 years. On another day, we would definitely head to Lake Nighthorse for paddleboarding and soaking in the sun, chatting the day away floating and drifting.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My favorite artist and teacher, Kellie Day, has had an incredible impact on my life. She is the creator and teacher of the first class I took that started my art journey. Her words of affirmation to me have been life-giving. She has become a personal friend and I am continually inspired by her generous spirit.
My husband actually rearranged our living room to create studio space for me. He has been a huge voice in supporting me to follow my passions..