When Maria Chavez was asked what she hoped the Loomis Chaffee students would take away from her time here as a visiting artist, she said by email recently, “I hope they see that I embrace so many areas of creativity and don't stick to just one medium to express myself. I hope it inspires them to see that one doesn't need to be in a box. You can do many things, whether it be as an artist or working in another field.”
Ms. Chavez will be here for a residency November 3–9, with an artist talk/performance on Saturday, November 4, in the Hubbard Music Center that is presented by the Visual Arts Department, Performing Arts Department, Norton Family Center for the Common Good, and Center for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. Her residency is part of the Adolf and Virginia Dehn Visiting Artist Program.
Ms. Chavez will have a gallery opening November 9 in the Eugene and Sue Mercy Gallery of the Richmond Art Center that will feature her works on paper, fabric, and marble. That exhibit will run through January 23 and will be shown in conjunction with student work in the Barnes and Wilde galleries (the AP Still Life show and fall term works exhibition as well as work entered into Scholastics competition).
She certainly has stayed true to the mantra of expressing herself in many ways.
“I'm known as a conceptual sound artist, abstract turntablist, and DJ,” Ms. Chavez said. “I feel, in general, I'm a sculptor that didn't find her way to stone until later in her career. Before I was just sculpting with whatever was around me, like vinyl records with needles. And now that I work with marble, (my studio is in Marina di Carrara in Tuscany where they mine the white marble) I realized that this is what I've been the whole time. My work is multimedia, utilizing many mediums to express conceptual ideas of sound.”
As a teenager she became enamored with the idea of being a disc jockey and started DJing in Houston when she was 17.
She did not stay in that box.
“My career,” Ms. Chavez said, “evolved into the arts in my 20s when I began improvising with artists in Houston who were being mentored by Pauline Olivero.” Ms. Olivero developed a meditative approach to music called “deep listening.”
“I find the turntable so fascinating because it's such a fragile state of physics. With one bump you can change the whole mood of the space. It's such an old device as well but can be found in any major club anywhere in the world. I love that you can choose how you want to approach the machine. I can either be a DJ and play music for a party or sit down in front of it and use it like an instrument, or I can break vinyl around it, and it becomes a sculpture. There's so much room to straddle any area of the arts you want.”
Ms. Chavez is back to experimenting with sound, producing art and traveling after a long ordeal.
She was diagnosed with a rare neuromuscular disorder in 2016 called Hemifacial Spasm, which is characterized by involuntary muscle contractions on one side of the face.
Eventually she had experimental brain surgery in Japan. She took a medical sabbatical in February 2019. She was declared cured two years later, but she was not yet ready to resume work.
“Once I was declared cured, I decided to rest another year or so to live as a normal person before going back out into my work,” she said. “Before, when I would travel/tour the world regularly, I would call it the perpetual tour. I was traveling so much I was never home here in New York City. Then I had four years of just being in New York City ... it’s nice to be in one place, have neighbors, hang with friends, etc. But I'm grateful to be alive, grateful to be cured, and grateful that I can perform and show my work again. Everything was so up in the air, so for everything to go so well was a real blessing.”
Her exhibition in the Mercy Gallery will feature her works on paper, fabric, and marble. She is hoping to work with students on a large fabric panel during her residency. In her last solo exhibition, she created a large-scale found-fabric installation in an abandoned loading dock in Houston.
Ms. Chavez’s large-scale sound and multimedia installations, along with other works, have been shown around the world. Her professional bio also says that her white Carrara marble sculpture “Vinyl Groove #1” was on view at the Wallach Gallery at Columbia University this summer alongside a listening installation that contains the discography of her duo project with multi-instrumentalist Jordi Wheeler.
She appeared on the cover of The Wire, a music magazine, in April 2023. She also is on the current cover of the textbook History of Experimental & Electronic Music by Routledge Publishing.