Exhibition view, At Your Altar, 2023. Photo Julien Gremaud.

Chloe West

At Your Altar Solo Show

October 6th - December 15TH 2023

In At Your Altar, Chloe West presents a new body of paintings that render American Western landscapes and relics as sites of literal and figurative devotion.

Exhibition view, At Your Altar, 2023. Photo Julien Gremaud.

The show evolved from West’s 2022-23 solo exhibitions with Morgan Presents and Harper’s Apartment in New York, which merged Western terrains with religious iconography. The eight paintings in At Your Altar further blur the line between the religious and secular, ultimately questioning the true meaning of reverence. Chloe West references her Wyoming origins, Christian art, 17th century Dutch and Flemish paintings, and Western European Renaissance works to reveal striking parallels between life and death, flesh and bone, and nature and self. Select works for At Your Altar were made during West’s seven-week residency with GALERIE MIGHELA SHAMA in Geneva.

Exhibition view, At Your Altar, 2023. Photo Julien Gremaud.

What is an altar? Technically it is a table used for ritual, offerings or worship. In Still Life (Cow Femur) , Still Life (Deer Jaw) and Still Life (Deer Skull) Chloe West follows this definition—and Dutch still-life traditions—by literally rendering altars.

Chloe West, Still Life (Deer Skull), 2023, Oil on linen, 30.5 x 40.5 cm.

Yet these altars are surreal: ornate animal bones perch atop lush, textiled platforms. Although these altars are distinctly bestial, their uncannily religious positionings embody holiness. Notably, West subverts memento mori by situating these bones as emblems of life instead of death.

Chloe West, Still Life (Deer Jaw), 2023, Oil on linen, 30.5 x 40.5 cm.

Bones are integral to Wyoming’s landscape and are arresting reminders of life’s mosaic nature. In a kind of ritualistic veneration of the landscape, West personally collects each bone that she paints. Her reverence for the land manifests via this foraging for bones, then immortalizing them with paint. Through enshrining animal remains Chloe West dares us to venerate unlikely items.

Exhibition view, At Your Altar, 2023. Photo Julien Gremaud.

At Your Altar invites religious experiences, but these experiences are not wed to religion. The paintings Pillar, Shell and Bull Horn Bind feature nude female figures in vibrant landscapes bearing bones and shells as if they are sacred.

Chloe West, Bull Horn Bind, 2023, Oil on linen, 180 x 150 cm.

The bones appear as relics—or tangible memorials of the land—and the bodies cradle skeletons, effectively worshiping at the altar of the landscape. These figures remind us that the line between life and death—like the divide between religious and secular, and human and animal is achingly thin.

Chloe West, Shell, 2023, Oil on linen, 81 x 61 cm.

Chloe West, Pillar, 2023, Oil on linen, 81 x 61 cm.

Exhibition view, At Your Altar, 2023. Photo Julien Gremaud.

For Chloe West paintings are altars and the act of painting is a divine gesture. Although not religious, West is devoted to the history of painting in theory and practice. West’s high regard for historical painting traditions buoys her devotion to creating works that can transcend time.

Chloe West, Mother Cabrini, 2023, Oil on linen, 40.5 x 51 cm.

Mother Cabrini, in which the saint’s hazed remains sport a serene façade, is influenced by West’s visits to New York’s St. Frances Cabrini shrine. With this, West spotlights the sacred intimacy of death, unveiling yet another dichotomy.

As a whole, At Your Altar is a collection of dichotomies. Visceral, pastoral and timeless, the paintings weave the aesthetics of religious iconography and the Western terrain to provoke deep reflection on what it means to live, to die and to worship. The paintings remind us that we can venerate unexpected objects, we can find beauty in flesh and bone, we can carve oases in wastelands, and we can bow at the altar of art. We can have religious experiences without God. Likewise, one’s devotion to artistic practice can rival that of reverence for a higher power—whether that power rests atop an altar, among the soil, or inside the tenacious bristles of a paintbrush.

Leila Renee

Exhibition view, At Your Altar, 2023. Photo Julien Gremaud.

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