Fay Chandler is a Boston-based artist who has lived and worked in the area for decades. Chandler is unique for her emotive and spontaneous works, as well as the unusual homes she finds for her pieces. An incredibly prolific artist, Chandler found many of her pieces lacked proper homes. Faced with this dilemma, she decided to found The Art Connection (TAC).
Started in 1995, TAC delivers donations by local artists to non-profit organizations for their public areas. Non-profits contact TAC and are shown a variety of available works. After a meeting with the leaders of the organization and sometimes a few of their clientele, a specific piece is selected.
Hundreds of non-profits have received artwork free of charge through Chandler’s organization. Tufts Medical Center alone has received 30 works for their public areas, five of which are by Chandler herself.
TAC also organizes large events where hundreds of pieces are displayed for purchase by donation, with the remainder given to non-profits. To date, two such events have been organized and another is set to mark Chandler’s 88th birthday. The event, entitled “Just As I Am,” takes place Sept. 16-27 at the Cyclorama Building, part of the Boston Center for the Arts.
The works to be displayed in “Just As I Am” represent 50 years of Chandler’s work and amount to over 400 pieces. Chandler’s work displays a spontaneity and energy that match her personality. A broken arm has now put her out of commission, but she said she will work again when her health improves.
The dominant focus of her paintings is people. In her most recent works, vignettes and silhouettes are placed against the moods and emotions established in her initial layers. Chandler’s interest in people is consistent and over-arching in “Just As I Am,” despite the longevity of her career.
Chandler did not attend art school until age 40, a circumstance that has influenced her career and allowed her to adopt her own methods more freely. Though Abstract Expressionism was the predominant style of her early career, Chandler said she always felt the need to paint people.
“I see people when I paint — I like people — so I had to fit the people into the Abstract Expressionist pattern,” Chandler told the Daily. The tension between Abstract Expressionism and Chandler’s own artistic ideas is apparent in “Just As I Am”, and as the years progress, her paintings continually free themselves from the bounds of a particular movement. “I don’t have a style; I just paint what I feel like,” Chandler said, when asked what she feels her style is.
The survey of Chandler’s works starts with earlier works from her graduate school days. “Woman Emerging” (1974) shows an interest in the human figure and strong, abstract use of bright color. The centerpiece of the image is a woman, realistically but simply painted in yellow. She is surrounded by panels of color in the form of layered silhouettes and abstracted human figures forming a single, interconnected mass. She explores humans in this piece through her brilliant use of color and the escape of the central figure from the surrounding silhouettes and ghostly figures.
Later works have a similar balance, but the realism has vanished in favor of more child-like drawings.
“I’m a realist as well as having a great imagination,” Chandler said. One of her pieces, “Ten to Twelve” (2010), resembles the format of “Woman Emerging.” The central piece of “Ten,” a clock, is again flanked by emanating, colored silhouettes. Long, column-like figures lean toward the clock, as if being sucked into it. The vehicle for Chandler’s exploration of human emotion has changed as the main players are no longer realistic characters with whom one can identify, but ghostly silhouettes from which the “Woman Emerging” tries to escape.
Although Chandler calls her founding of TAC “selfish” and self-promotional, her work is impeccably suited to the organization to which she has devoted herself. One young woman in a halfway house came to Chandler to talk about a painting she had donated. The woman said she felt it mirrored her life: the dark part, her past struggles and battles with homelessness and the light representing newfound hope. Inevitably, Chandler’s work enables just the type of reflection that people in difficult situations sometimes need.
“Just As I Am” is unique as an exhibit because of the harmony between the pieces and their purpose. Chandler’s work examines the people in her world and through “Just As I Am” her artistic perspective will be shared with the people who need it most.
“Part of finishing up a painting comes without even realizing it,” Chandler said. “The painting has to feel good to look good to me. Then I know the balance is [right].”