Chantal Westby : Artist and Humanist ! My work today is an extension of my struggle. I express my emotions and my frustrations through art.
Woman of the head, woman of heart, woman of action, Chantal Westby lives, breathes and works in Philadelphia. Having become an artist after leaving France to marry her Prince Charming, she is now a true American, but with a heart despite everything, always “Made in France“.
Happy as a fish in water, she still lives her life as a designer at 100 per hour. Always in search of information, this feeds his passion to paint and to implement anything that seems beautiful to him, and of course without fuss.
A follower of the sensual pleasure of the visual, she has also become a committed humanist. She moves in total optimism, which reminds her of how beautiful life is, but that it can also be undermined, in a world that really doesn’t respect itself anymore.
Open the eyes
Opening her eyes, and providing help to those who need it, is also what motivates her to always move forward, to go even further, to share with others what she has received.
Respect for some begins with respect for others. Being passionate allows you to share with others what you might call the melody of happiness. To be part of time is to give strength to a more harmonious, more flourishing future, more in harmony with what it should be today.
The human being has never been so intelligent, but today this intelligence pushes him towards a bottomless pit, in a chaotic path which will lead him perhaps to his destruction. From a dangerous Presidency to a futile and irresponsible Presidency, our societies are losing themselves a little more with each passing day.
As Chantal says, “My work today is an extension of my fight. I express my emotions and my frustrations through art. “
Today she is anticipating. All her achievements captured over the years have enabled her, as a woman mother and artist to have gone beyond the canvas, to leave for new horizons allowing her to combine “Savoir-être”, “Savoir faire”, and “Knowing how to say” too.
The word creation is not an empty word. The verb to create exists thanks to women and men who have always expressed what they had in them, to tell as many people as possible that creation was at the origin of the world, and that this world could also exist without them.
From global warming to the conquest of Mars, humanity must and will have to make choices that will not please everyone. In a world, I would say of a poor rich person, and whatever one may say, that it is indeed poverty that has conquered the world, because poverty is forever induced. She is never idle, she is nurtured, until death ensues. So, Chantal asks, will we one day see the counters reset to zero, nothing is less certain!
But the artist and the artists are there to remind us that other paths are possible, that the fears of some give rise to fear in others, that life can be beautiful, when we respect what makes it up.
Meeting someone like Chantal Westby, as I often like to say, feels good or it hurts. But also, it reminds us that our universe is not a garbage can, but the support of several galaxies that miraculously make us exist!
We warmly thank Chantal for taking the time to answer the artsixMic questions.
Hello Chantal !
You are a committed humanist. You talk about ecology, consciousness, ecology of consciousness, doors of perception, space-time, humanitarian expeditions, especially in Haiti. But the human being, for you he really still today, aware of having one, Consciousness? Because in particular, as Robert Marteau says, “The more the earth becomes populated, the more emptiness invades it.” What is it for you today, of this consciousness or unconsciousness for that matter, as a woman, as an artist, as an individual?
I am an eternal optimist; I could never bring myself to see the empty side of the glass. Indeed, the earth is becoming increasingly populated, always faster, which is one of the, if not the main problem when we talk about global warming. In this exponential population, I believe that, on the contrary, human beings are more and more aware of their own consciousness, of their awakening, of their human condition, on a land increasingly damaged and governed by governments which do nothing, or too little for that to change.
The various marches for the climate, for justice between men, their equality, from which ever more audible and especially young voices spring up, are also increasingly populated!
Our new generation is fully aware of the real state of affairs because they have not been put to sleep by years of false speech and they are well aware that our generation of baby boomers has enjoyed and enjoyed a life far away of any climatic or future concerns. They have every right to blame us for that. Not to have taken advantage of it, but not to do enough to make their future, too, carefree. Not a single human being on this Earth anymore has the right to say that he does not know that a very serious problem is threatening us and is already starting to show its dark side.
On a more personal level, I have as far as I can remember always been aware of the other, in the broad sense. My sensitivity as a daughter, as a woman, then as a mother and as an artist has always allowed me to look to the other. Far be it from me pretending to want to change the world, but if I can help the person next to me, then the one next, I don’t think so.
You were talking about Haiti, I had the opportunity to make three humanitarian trips there, after the terrible earthquake that changed the face of this island forever and plunged its inhabitants into utter chaos. It was very hard; it would be a lie to say otherwise. Not because of the Spartan conditions we found ourselves in, it would have been indecent to complain about that.
But because precisely there, the idea invaded me of wanting to help everyone, which is impossible. Resolving, therefore, that we only have to help a small portion of the great people we have met has been heartbreaking in the face of this surge of humanitarian devastation. Haitians are incredibly strong, courageous, generous and resilient.
Much more than us Westerners locked in our destructive comfort. We provide them with logistical, psychological and humanitarian aid, but they provide us with so much more. Humility, sharing, courage, the notion of resilience at its most noble. Haiti has changed me as a woman but also as an artist. I then realized that my work could help, could raise awareness by shining the spotlight on such and such a subject. It was then that my career as an artist really took a turning point, from which I could no longer get out of it because it was so important to me to realize that art can change the world, too.
As early as the 90s I realized that the Western machine was racing catastrophically and especially that very few people seemed to realize. Whistleblowers were all ridiculed in the media and those around them. I have also suffered these mockeries but they have never turned me away from this fight. I instilled these values and this vision in my son.
When he offered me the happiness of holding my grandson in my arms for the first time, the meaning of this fight had never been clearer to me. For him and all the other children, we have not the right but the duty to act. All and all, each at their own level, for others and for the planet. Just look at the incredible photos of Thomas Pesquet taken from ISS, to realize the fragility of our world surrounded by space hostile to all life and the absolute ridiculousness of waging wars between humans, in such a small space, so fragile.
My answer is a bit long but I cannot answer such a subject in 10 lines, I beg your pardon …
In fact, at Chantal Westby, your creations must reflect your actions and in harmony with your actions, but also with your thoughts and reflections, but surely more?
As said before, my work today is an extension of my struggle. I express my emotions and my frustrations through art.
Perhaps what has changed the most about the way I work is the anticipation.
In the past my creations were totally instinctive from A to Z, I took a canvas or a canson and gradually a collection was born.
The maturity of my work, my life experiences, as an artist and as a woman, my meetings, have led me to be more focused, more reflective on the axis of a collection, its color, its material, his message. The creative process has not changed, instinct always prevails.
My work as an artist has become the tangible expression of my various struggles, a perfect osmosis of my thoughts, my fears, my doubts, my emotions, my joys translated through artistic creation. It is also for this reason that my creative palette has extended beyond canvases.
You escaped one day from France to settle in the United States, in Philadelphia. How did this trip come about? How is it symbolized today? How can the American dream still be built in step? Going from Trump to Biden, an American story, an American story?
The word “escape” is a pretty good choice indeed … I was living in Paris at the time and my current husband, Dr George Westby who was on vacation in Europe with these sons arrived at the right time.
My son was still a teenager, I was going through a divorce and despite a passionate fashion job in Paris, I didn’t hesitate for a second when George asked for my hand.
I remember telling my ex-husband that one day a prince charming would come and take me away …
A few weeks later, I moved to the suburbs of Philadelphia with my son Gaël, without knowing a single word of English and without any knowledge other than my husband. Prince Charming had come and kidnapped me …
I thus became a full American citizen, but I am and will always remain French at heart.
Without this upheaval, I would not have become an artist, at least not in the way I approach my profession today.
The fascinating thing about the United States is that everything is disproportionate. From lush nature to the way of approaching life, including politics. All the same, we went from the first black President to a racist and misogynistic President, to shorten the list of his qualities …
Biden’s election is of course a relief to many, if only for the fight against global warming, but it is also a demonstration of a sick system. Trump was not elected by chance, he is no accident as many would like to believe, and the Democratic and Republican parties have not learned the lesson.
It seems that Biden is taking a brighter path to change things anyway, our hopes are high. Perhaps he tells himself that at his age he has little to lose on the political spectrum and that he can afford to shake up some lobbies.
The American dream may still exist but it is different from that of the 1970s and 1980s, even in the 1990s recklessness was still the order of the day. The tragedy of 2001 changed the face of the world. What hasn’t changed in the American Dream, however, is that hard work and persistence pays off here. Afterwards, the luck factor also plays an important role of course.
You are a woman in abstraction who is constantly working in action. Do you like things to move and get done?
It is not a question of loving or not, it is vital. I sometimes try to channel my brain so much I want to do things a minute … I become almost exhausting to follow for those around me but I always told myself that the moment when I will really stop is that it will be time to enter the tunnel of light.
Of course, it is important to know how to allow yourself moments of respite, silence, and breathing. I put so much energy into creating a project that before moving on to another, I have to cover it all with a white veil in order to reinvent something else. Resetting the counters to zero is, I believe, essential for any artist. I like endangering, trying new techniques, new materials, new media. The movement, that of the present turned towards the future, is the engine of my life.
With multimedia director, photographer and director Lénaïc G. Mercier, you have opened together the Westby & Mercier studio, to unite your talents and diversify your research, what about? What are its objectives?
When I was talking about knowing how to reinvent oneself as an artist, my collaboration with Lénaïc is the perfect example. Our artistic understanding was immediate and our first immersive collaboration in New York in 2017 had such an impact on the public that it seemed obvious to us to unite our universes in a more lasting way.
The objective of our studio is both to offer new works mixing painting, sculpture and multimedia to private collectors or public spaces but also to imagine and design immersive installations in which spectators can live experiences while very unique.
Our latest installation “Global WarNing” is intended to be a real journey to the heart of our planet, its ecosystem, its fragility but also its uncertain future, of which we have the keys. Awakening consciousness through art, by stimulating the emotions of viewers is the heart of our work. Our desire is to always ensure that no visitor comes out of one of our emotional “virgin” exhibitions.
We share the same artistic concerns and interests. This is what makes our ever-evolving symbiosis. Even if Lénaïc is currently being held in France because of the pandemic, we have daily discussions and are each working on our own on our future immersive projects. We hope to be able to offer our new facility to the public at the start of the 2021 school year.
I was talking about space-time, and you say to yourself, your eyes on the cosmos, inexhaustible source of inspiration. But since 2011, however, you have become an “advocate” and as you say, one of your favorite recurring subjects: “Thoughts on space debris” and “Global warming”. Of the degradation of our Cosmos! A huge battle to be fought?
As humans prepare for their arrival on Mars in a race where the greatest Western powers all want to be the first, more and more spacecraft are sending into orbit around the Earth and increasing the release of waste into the atmosphere , causing at the same time an aggravation of global warming and therefore creating ever more inequalities between peoples, yes the battle is immense …
Since space exploration began in the 1960s, the numbers of debris orbiting the earth have been staggering. Official estimates speak of 128,934,000 (one hundred and twenty-eight million nine hundred and thirty-four thousand) objects ranging in size from 1 mm to 10 cm … This is edifying.
Not content with polluting the planet, we also pollute our stratosphere …However, as I said earlier, I am full of hope seeing the new generations. They aren’t just in the action, they demand accountability. Their union and determination are an invisible force that pushes us to constantly push the limits.
My battle, our battle for Lénaïc and I is thus to highlight these subjects through plastic, multimedia and immersive art, to allow as many people as possible to become aware of them and to give them the keys to activate the mechanisms of brain that will allow things to evolve, even in a tiny way. Denouncing and warning without providing a solution would be utterly sterile and counterproductive, and art is a wonderful messenger.
And then tomorrow, where is Chantal Westby going, always further than far, always closer to the stars, always in search of a certain infinity, I suppose?
I’ll answer this question with a well-known quote from Oscar Wilde, which resonates with us like a mantra:
” Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”
“You always have to aim for the moon. Even if you fail, you end up in the stars”.
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