Freeing the Cage: Interview with Cover Artist Sandra Chevrier

Interview by 
Lindsay Glauser Kwan

Room editor Lindsay Glauser Kwan asks Sandra Chevrier, the cover artist of issue 37.3 "Geek Girls" a few questions about her art. Sandra Chevrier is a gaze collector, an idea chaser, and a full time single mom. Her work is shown in Canada as well as in the United States, United Kingdom, Europe, and Asia. The series Super heros Cages has been successful worldwide and her art is now in the hands of collectors all over the globe. She lives in Montreal. Visit http://www.sandrachevrier.com/ to learn more about her work.

ROOM: Your work was featured on the cover of issue 37.3 Geek Girls.  How do you feel your work suits this theme? 

SC: I think the comic books have in way always been related to the connotation ‘’geek’’. The fact that I use them in my series ‘’Les Cages’’ creates the relation. But the theme is far from this subject.

ROOM: How did the idea for the Cages series come about?

SC: There has been a big evolution in my work since 2010 to now, both in subject matter and technique. Also, there was a transition from the all-paint work in Les Cages to the comic collage work in Super Hero Canvas. If I could use one word to describe the evolution of my work since 2010 it would be "simplification," both in subject matter and technique. I feel I have broken down my vision to its bare bones resulting in a much more stark and capturing end. As for the transition from heavy textured paint to comic book collage in the series 'Les Cages', it happened quite by accident. Les Cages started when I was doing crafts with my (then) 2 year old son, I found an old sketch of a womans portrait and passed over it with heavy textures of dollar store toll paints, I found the result very striking and thus the very humble beginning to a lengthy series. 

ROOM: You’ve said that the collaged portraits in the Cages series are about how women are forced to become superheroes by society’s preconceptions of what a woman should be and what she should look like. Do you feel like these preconceptions are shifting? 

SC: It depends on what point you look at the pieces. It can be for certain person, mostly women, the symbolisation of the liberation or the empowerment of women. But on a different view, and the perspective on how I see it is more about the pressure society and our own selves put on our shoulders. The need to be perfect in everything that we do, the high expectations. Like a prison, a cage, a mask we wear everyday. 

ROOM: What drew you to use comic book images for this critique? 

SC: Society is asking us to be superheroes. Preconceptions of what ought and ought not be, how one ought and ought not act, think or believe. False notions of perfection and beauty. Unrealistic expectations demanding women of society to become 'superheroes' as if it were their supposed position. One's own false sense of identity and the societal pressures to remain therein. And also there is a war inside each of us, a battle between vilain and heroes.

But I also love to use the images of the fragile heroes. If they can be fragile, then so do we! Let's allow ourselves to be.

ROOM: How did you choose the images from comic books to use in your series? Are you a fan of comic books? 

SC: The transition to comic book collage happened upon embarking on a DIY home project. I had an old, small and cheap IKEA dresser that I had planned to cover in comic book collage, not long after planning this small home project, the dresser broke. So I was left with a broken piece of furniture and dozens of copies of comic books that I had picked up at a nearby flea market, so I put them to use, and thus the comic book cage series.

The comic book collages, at once anesthetizing and alluring, echo rather entertaining pop-art references that eventually bely the bitter irony that these females have been silenced, smothered, and even blinded by the very mechanisms that seduced us into their existence.

The collage technique, which frequently highlights epic battle scenes ripped from the pages of actual comic books, is applied rather haphazardly; yet it’s precisely this incongruous style of application (whereby fictional characters reach almost theatrical heights) that enhances the message of unrealistic pressures placed upon women in today's world, and perfectly satirizes the farce of celebrity and the vacuous nature of unattainable expectation and dream

ROOM: How many mixed media pieces are in the cage series?

SC: So many, loads of studies on paper and loads of acrylic work on canvas ... hundreds of them! 

ROOM: Where can Room readers see more of your work? 

SC: I am presently working on the same series but all hand painted instead of mix media using collage. The result will be shown at Jonathan Levine Gallery in Manhattan/NY in June-July. Otherwise, the gallery that represents me is COA Gallery in Montreal, my partner is the owner; we’ve been working together since the begining. I also show my work in California, UK, Europe, Asia.

“It's Canadian, feminist, and one of my favourite things ever.”

—bucketofrhymes, "29 Amazing Literary Magazines You Need To Be Reading", Buzzfeed Books

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