Stephanie Chefas Projects is delighted to begin 2022 with Modern Folk, a group exhibit featuring new work from five West Coast artists who express distinct cultural identity through folk art traditions. Artists include Brianna Spencer, Deedee Cheriel, Gina M. Contreras, Kellen Chasuk, and Lisa Congdon.

Originally from San Diego, California, Brianna Spencer is based in Portland, Oregon. Although a contemporary artist, her work shows a strong influence from folk art. Often depicting portraits of her and her partner, George, Spencer draws upon California culture, street art, and folk traditions to execute her illustrative style.

Nalini ‘Deedee’ Cheriel is a visual artist who started out creating record covers and T-shirts for the Oregon music scene in the early ‘90s. Born in the hippie town of Eugene, Oregon, she began her own band and record label at the age of 19. Influenced by the popular DIY culture of that time, she played in several all-girl bands (Juned, Adickdid, The Teenangels, The Hindi Guns) and co-created the semi-autobiographical film Down and Out with the Dolls. This artist has lived and studied abroad: Honduras, Chile, England, Portugal, Spain and her native India.

Now residing in Los Angeles, Cheriel’s work explores narratives that recognize the urgency and conflict in our continuing attempts to connect to the world. With influences derived from such opposites as East Indian temple imagery, punk rock, and her Pacific Northwest natural environment, her images are indications of how we try to connect ourselves to others and how these satirical and heroic efforts are episodes of compassion and discomfort. Bold elements drawn from landscapes -both urban and natural- and pop culture suggest the ability to find commonalities and relationships between ourselves and our surroundings that inevitably confirm our greater humanity and quest towards love.

Born in the Central Valley of California, Gina M. Contreras incorporates drawing and painting to examine the complexity of traditional and cultural standards. Contreras uses self-portraits to embrace the narrative between her conventional Chicana upbringing and her admiration for modern lowbrow culture of self-awareness and body acceptance. In 2008 she received her BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. Her work has been exhibited throughout the U.S. and internationally. She currently lives and works in San Francisco.

“I approach my work with a symbolic perspective, painting melancholy self-portraits that are light-hearted and depict honestly my aspirations and disappointments with Western beauty standards and romantic prospects.”, states Contreras. “I seek to produce and create an abundance of sexual vulnerability that reflects and accepts the physical space I take up, but not to minimize myself, to make others - or the male driven aesthetic ideal- comfortable.”

Currently based in Massachusetts by way of California’s Bay Area, Kellen Chasuk studied art at the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, Or. She aims to digest identity and artifice through the manipulation of conventional and experimental practices. Chasuk has exhibited work in San Francisco and was first shown at Stephanie Chefas Projects in 2017 and again in 2018.

“I make art that aims to untangle my ever-changing view of the world as I move into adulthood through representation of everyday thoughts, objects, and textures.”, says Chasuk. “Humor is essential to understanding the work- as it is rooted in self-awareness and offers essential room for growth. Most of the subject matter is derived from an accumulation of visual and academic knowledge related to anything from television, advertising, fabric patterns, art history, to gender and personal relationships, plus finding wherever I fit in. Creating a visual response allows me to hold on to my own warped view of things and creates agency for myself and the viewer. My intention is to call attention to the subjectiveness of the human experience through manipulating traditional painting, sculpture, and media techniques. The output being, hopefully, a moment of reflection, a laugh, a relatable discomfort, or a newfound comfort.”

Lisa Congdon is an internationally known fine artist, illustrator, and writer. She makes art for clients around the globe, including Target, Amazon, Method, Comme des Garcons, Crate & Barrel, REI, and MoMA, among many others. She is the author of ten books, including Art Inc: The Essential Guide to Building Your Career as an Artist and Find Your Artistic Voice: The Essential Guide to Working Your Creative Magic. She is the host of the podcast The Lisa Congdon Sessions and she teaches Creative Entrepreneurship at Pacific Northwest College of Art. Lisa is self-taught and didn’t achieve momentum in her career until she was nearly 40 years old. Despite her untraditional path, nearly 15 years later, Lisa has achieved recognition, not just as an artist, but as a leader in the industry for her work in fundraising, knowledge sharing, mentoring, and teaching. In March of 2021, she was named One of the 50 Most Inspiring People and Companies According to Industry Creatives published in AdWeek. She lives and works in Portland, Oregon.