A Daughter’s View – Aleah Chapin

Exactly 50 years ago today, on May 20th, 1974, my mom @debsoultouch made a discovery that would change her life and have a huge impact on my own. She had just graduated from Cooper Union and was in the print shop helping a friend clean up when she realized that if she put a piece of paper down on an inked plate and moved her fingertips over it, images would appear. It’s a simple process but in it she realized a great potential for creative awakening through its intuitive and direct approach. She named it Touch Drawing.

As her daughter, watching her navigate a career in the arts has shown me what is possible with dedication, hard work, and a commitment to something greater than ourselves. As my work has changed over the recent years, I’m well aware of the influence her own work has had on me, and I’m proud to carry on her legacy in my own way.

As artists like Hilma af Klint and Agnes Pelton have become more known, and their work and process accepted as valid in the art world (helped greatly by authors such as Julia Voss @spiraltemple) I know my mom is not alone in seeing art as more than just a beautiful picture or object, but a process that connects us to things beneath the surface. Deborah Koff-Chapin is one of many (often women) who have forged unique and under appreciated paths in the art world that we are now just beginning to truly appreciate.

Congratulations, Mom, Deborah Koff-Chapin, on everything you have done with Touch Drawing over the past 50 years!! Reprinted from Aleah Chapin’s Instagram post with some modification of the photo selection. 

Photo to the right: Doing Touch Drawing during the contractions of labor

Aleah Chapin (b. 1986 Seattle, WA) is a painter whose direct portrayals of the human form have expanded the conversation around western culture’s representations of the body in art. Her work has explored aging, gender and beauty, influenced in part by the community within which she was raised on an island in the Pacific Northwest. In 2020, Chapin’s work took a radical shift inward, expanding her visual language in order to better express the turbulent times we are living in. Consistent throughout her career, Chapin’s work asks the question: What does it mean to exist within a body today?

 

Chapin holds an MFA from the New York Academy of Art and a BFA from Cornish College of the Arts. She has attended residencies at the Leipzig International Art Program (Germany) and MacDowell (United States) and has exhibited both Nationally and Internationally at Flowers Gallery (New York, London, Hong Kong), The Belvedere Museum (Vienna), and the National Portrait Gallery (London) among others. Chapin was a recipient of the Promising Young Painters Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (New York), the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation Grant (Canada), a Postgraduate Fellowship from The New York Academy of Art, and won the BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery (London). Her work has been published extensively, including New American Paintings, ArtMaze Magazine, 50 Contemporary Women Artists, and Radio Juxtapoz. Chapin is also a subject in the BBC documentary titled “Portrait of an Artist”.

Recently, Aleah Chapin and her husband, filmmaker Chris Rodriguez, made a short film about her new work, titled Walking Backwards. It is an Official Selection in several film festivals including Cinequest, New York Short Film Festival, Berlin Short Film Festival, Venice Film Festival, and Atlanta Docufest. Aleah and Chris won the Best Seattle Filmmakers Award from the Seattle Film Festival and Best Short Documentary from Venice Film Festival.

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