"I recommend that any serious artist have a dedicated studio practice — a regular routine of making," says artist Chandra Dieppa Ortiz. "You should also take workshops or classes whenever you can. Fortunately, there are lots of options here in Boston, such as the Eliot School of Fine Arts, the MFA adult studio classes, and the Boston Center for Adult Education, as well as the many art schools in the area. Just keep making your work and putting it out there as often as comfortable. You learn a lot about yourself and your audience through preparing and participating in a show of your work. The more you put yourself out there, the more opportunities you invite your way. But it all starts with solid art work that has substance, content, and quality."
Painting a Voice
"My art is my way of processing and making sense of the world around me," says artist Chandra Dieppa Ortiz. "Through this process, it has also given me voice. As James Baldwin once said, ‘Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.’ I hope that people look at my artist work and feel stronger and more hopeful that every generation's voice matters, and it is the richness of the dialogue that matters most."
An Artist's Faves
"I enjoy Samson Projects, Chase Gallery, and Boston Sculptors Gallery," says artist Chandra Dieppa Ortiz, "because their shows are thoughtful, well executed, and diverse." And as for museums? "I enjoy the Decordova and Mass MOCA because they are contemporary, dynamic, and multi-sensory," she says.
"I admire and am influenced by the work of Romare Bearden, Cy Twombly, Jacob Lawrence, Basquiat, and Rauschenberg, just to name a few," says artist Chandra Dieppa Ortiz.
"I shop for most of my supplies at the Blick art store in the Fenway," says artist Chandra Dieppa Ortiz. "The selection and store size are nice; plus, parking is easy as long as the Red Sox aren't playing."
When Grandma began to tell a story, little Chandra's world froze. Margaret Odom had a way with words. "You want to know about Jim Crow?" she'd say. "I know all about Jim Crow." Margaret was a striking Cuban woman whose light skin enabled her to evade some of the effects of racism in her new home in the United States. Her husband was not so lucky. Grandma would describe how her husband was forbidden to sit at the counter at Woolworth because he was dark-skinned. Margaret was allowed. Whatever she ordered was bitter in taste.
When Chandra's eighth-grade history class studied Jim Crow, Chandra aced it. She had learned about many things from Margaret Odom, who went on to head up the Negro Labor Party during the 1954 riots and participated as a social activist for the rest of her life. Chandra didn't ever fancy herself to have a gift for storytelling like her grandma, but she knew she could draw. So, off she went, first majoring in history at Florida State University, then earning a Post-Baccalaureate degree in painting from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and a Master of Science in art education from Massachusetts College of Art.
Chandra created a collage about class, a painting exploring race, a multi-media canvas encompassing jazz and love. And in all of them, Grandma was the muse. Tackle hard issues like violence and gender with love and faith, and you can create a dialogue. Create a dialogue — with words or a paintbrush — and you open up the possibility of change. Effect change, good change, and you empower a generation. That's what Grandma told Chandra. That's what Chandra wants to show the world.
In addition to working in her own studio, the Dieppa Studio in Boston, Chandra serves as the art director at the Dorchester Academy and teaches at the Massachusetts College of Art. She recently was awarded a $15,000 Brother Thomas Fellowship at the Boston Foundation. And today, she kicks off "Four Voices," an exhibit running through November 22nd at the Nesto Gallery at Milton Academy, where you'll see colors and shapes, themes of race and love — and, of course, images of Grandma. Life is a journey. Art is its story. Chandra plans to paint on and on.