ILYSM played phone tag with internationally acclaimed artist, Winston Chmielinski and discussed the process of letting go and starting over.
*The following text messages have been edited and condensed.
♡: Throughout our friendship... I've been impressed with your ability to pack up and go
I remember times you’ve sourced incredible finds whether it be clothing or furniture but I also think of you being willing to part with them at a moment's notice. Can you talk about your process of letting go before you start again?
WC: So, last time we actually lived in the same place was NYC.. up til like 2011 or 2012?
I don't think I've always been so voracious... my mom loves to remind me how i sat on the ground for two years as a baby. But basically that whole time in NYC I was training for the extreme sport of accumulation and disinteration of things, career, knowledge, money, and people. I remember when I moved to Berlin in 2013 I counted how many times I moved:
then i signed a lease here and went crazy at IKEA and markets
WC: then I basically got stuck between two tables a couple years in and was like, oh shit. I guess I'm not over this
so the real letting go process started around 2016, after that extended "training" phase :)
♡: That's interesting, a part of it I think is natural to want to create a space that's yours and feeling like there's a home.
But when the space owns you
That's the tricky part
WC: definitely. That was so important, and it filled a gap in my experience. I don't believe it's possible to skip steps
♡: Of feeling obligation or an ongoing need to just maintain versus challenge what home even is
WC: yeah. you need energy to challenge things
♡: How has this approach worked in relation to the idea of creating, is it easy for you to part with things you've made versus sourced?
WC: things are an extension of your body. relationships with them are energetically taxing, too. they can also give energy, but it's not obvious how to navigate that
♡: Why did you decide to get rid of everything? And how did you manage to do it?
WC: I realized holding onto things makes me creatively stuck
I moved to a different country and had no money for the move
Also once I tried to do a webcam sale but the video was frozen the whole time
Then I just posted to a forum and just let people come into my apt and bargain
♡: Do you get emotionally attached to your belongings? Was it hard to make that choice?
WC: Yes, but there's a trick
Spend a couple hours staring at the thing you think you love, and it starts to get boring
♡: Did you sell only your large items, furniture etc, or also clothing and personal items?
Except basics like, my underwear and things I need
♡: Is there anything you regret getting rid of? Anything you miss? Anything you thought you needed to keep forever and then realized it held no meaning once it was out of your possession?
WC: I sold something that was worth a LOT for very little. An antique book that was a present
It was micro size too. No reason to sell it
I regret selling a few things on eBay that didn't get bid up at all
Selling things that you're still attached to is rough . Gotta let go energetically first
I regret selling a couple early paintings at a fundraiser auction in NYC
♡: A couple of your own paintings?
I had an early start selling my art, and I let everything go because it's how I lived
now I realize, some of those pieces left my studio way too early
I also don't feel that way about most of my work. I'm cool with digital copies. But there are a few that really shouldn't be wherever they are
♡: It's interesting bc film for instance you share with as many people as possible. But with a painting there's this inherent feeling of possession and ownership
Even if it reaches a museum sometimes I wonder if that's the space X artist would have wanted people to experience it
WC: and that's a pretty excellent outcome. so much art ends up in storage
even toilets are better
WC: actually toilets are amazing
♡: You and Duchamp are onto something
WC: basically, for me it wasn't even about other people
it was that I hadn't experienced my own artwork
I like where this is going
WC: I made it and let it go. There was much more to discover and work through had I kept those pieces around
instead, I let it go, forgot what I had done, and then repeated myself
♡: How did you eventually come experience your artwork
WC: or let's say, endlessly iterated
♡: Yes that makes sense
WC: I disappeared
from the performance and presentation of it all, and basically spent the last four years rediscovering a deeper catalyst to create
♡: Do you find you chronicle and photograph your steps of creating work or is it more of a physical thing of just spending time with the piece
WC: I'm doing that now
but I didn't, before, because I was on a deep dive
♡: What is the catalyst
WC: curiosity and integration in pace with one another
♡: Anything you kept even though it might have been more “responsible” to sell it?
Through ALL these years I've held onto an organza double breasted tuxedo jacket
It's like, welcome to heaven
I dunno, I just love it even though I've never worn it
Also I own like a bucket of tape
That I keep taking with me wherever I go
I love gaffers tape. The real stuff, not fake gaffers
Oh, I also hold onto my violin and viola.
I have underwear that goes back 7 years or so. So I feel a bit dirty
Yeah I've felt like a troll quite a few times
Even though I don't own much I'm still super messt
♡: YES love a fellow self identifying messy person
WC: I belong in a field spreading wildflowers, clean floors just activate my wood elf self
♡: Was your childhood room messy?
BUT ITS OK
I'm scared of super neat people, I know a few who have such short fuses
Yes. I was always guilty and suspicious
But apparently it's in my natal chart
♡: Does your own mess bother you? Does other people mess bother you?
No. I actually know where everything is
♡: What is your mess like, is it things jumbled in drawers and hidden away, or visible?
WC: Right now there's a skeleton on my floor
♡: How has space influenced your creative process?
WC: I have some inkling of what could be a general truth, but there's also just the specifics of each of us having a unique configuratino
♡: Right, I think it's personal for everyone and important to maintain some point of that intimacy for yourself
I would wear it [the unique configuratino tshirt]
WC: aaaaaa space!!!!! messiness was also a catalyst, to feel completely free not to fuck up floors
♡: Yes there is definitely a restriction that comes with certain spaces
WC: then I went back to a single wall, and intimate brushwork
now I'm in my dream studio, not making a mess
♡: I was just going to ask but that goes into it - how the evolution of the work has changed in the relation to the space
Are you routine oriented when it comes to work, or do you find your approach constantly changing?
After your epiphanies do you have a new set of guidelines to approaching material
♡: Or is it more like the rules are there are no rules
WC: no. there are rules
I honestly feel like I've been given so much room in life
to try... EVERYTHING
to throw all rules out, then to slowly piece together new puzzles, only to realize they line up perfectly with already existing rules
♡: Do you have an example
WC: but what good is a rule when you don't know why it's a rule? There are people out there who trust, and then there are challengers, and I only know what it's like to be the latter
"think about your palette"
♡: What's your approach to color like?
Have you noticed yourself drawn to certain shades as an overall versus certain periods
WC: blue. oh so jenna
I make all my own paints now
♡: Did that start from necessity or curiosity
necessity breeds curiosity
Do you like working with music?
WC: I actually stopped making art a year ago, and started back up in July, and everything changed in that period
♡: Or is too influential
What caused the reset
Was there something specific or just a cumulative progression of feeling the need to take time
WC: I packed up all my paints in February, put them on a shelf, danced to Erykah Badu, then the shelf fell down and a vial of red ink splattered all over my living room
it was a very slow approach to that, but
♡: Were you actively imagining acts of creation in that period or did you shut off
WC: I was asking a question that can basically drive you insane, but I had to sort through it
is what I'm making, really celebrating and making good use of the materials that go into it
There is an opportunity for all creativity to alchemize. I would even venture to say, that's the source of creative energy
♡: Mixing your own chemicals and paints I feel like also feeds into that level of awareness
WC: I just realized that an art store is like a supermarket
same basic materials, way too much product
the conditioning around creating is so heavy!
♡: I'd like to go into your choice of mediums, is there something you lean into more that feels more natural to you?
WC: and yet so many people never get to experience play, and messiness, and that is so important
but it's a phase, not a way of life
♡: Yes play is essential
WC: I make my own mediums out of rice and milk, for underpaintings
oil has a gorgeous effect. I'm anti acrylic because it's all plastic, and it just gets flushed down drains.
♡: That's a good point
WC: I wasn't selling for a couple of year, so for everyone else that would look like being broke but in terms of the extreme sport of accumulation/dissolution it was basically the olympics
♡: There's this Fellini quote I had saved when I was in high school
And it was, "it is better to destroy than create what's unnecessary."
♡: I think about that a lot
I definitely understand that pressure to maintain status quo
But I had my own pump the brakes moment
WC: destroy, means to really remove layers, not simply rearrange
♡: Of wanting to realize what I wanted to put energy into once you realize how precious it is
WC: I know. I always felt a connection there, that we both took a step out of the race to evaluate
the preciousness of what we have to work with
it is limited. but it is perfect when applied appropriately. perfect in its uniqueness
♡: Yes I think as you don't let it get to the point of fear based, letting that cripple you - but really use it to work through your intent
As long as you*
WC: it's true. some people really fall off and don't recover
♡: Is there a place you'd like to live that you haven't explored yet?
WC: I will live in Scotland some day
♡: I will visit you
my neighbors will be rainbows
♡: You me and Kermit