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 Heather Schatz  (1968 - )

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Lived/Active: New York/California      Known for: collaborative silkscreen portrait-interactive

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Working from the studio she shares with her husband, Eric Chan, in the meatpacking district of Manhattan, Heather Schatz collaborates with Chan to do "riotously colored silk-screen paintings" that include large-scale abstract portraits promoted with their collaborative signature of 'ChanSchatz'.  The couple both teach art at Columbia University, something they have done since their graduation in 1998.

For their joint artwork, they frequently bring in outsiders to advise them on the creative input, and among their subjects and 'advisees' are fashion designer Angela Missoni, real estate developer Aby Rosen, soldiers returned from Iraq, coal miners, storekeepers, skyscraper inhabitants and museum personnel.  Of this working method, Schatz says:  "All kinds of openings and relationships happen when you invite people in." (104) For a 2006 exhibition in Chelsea, they consulted West 14th Street storekeepers including a doorman and a restaurant manager.  The work with soldiers resulted in a 14-foot long composition that was narrative and panoramic.  From interviewing coal miners who had been trapped near Somerset, Pennsylvania for three days, they did a piece reflecting experiences of men nearly losing their lives. In 2008, Aby Rosen is holding an exhibition of their work in the lobby of Lever House, which he owns, at 390 Park Avenue in New York City.

Schatz was born in 1968, and grew up in Santa Barbara, California.  She did undergraduate work at the University of California, Berkeley, and met Chan there in a drawing class.  Halfway through a drawing assignment, they switched seats and completed each other's work, and from that time, they have been working together interchangeably.

After 1990, when they graduated, they began their 'co-creativity' by using Japanese robots to make small sculptures, and then photographing them in a variety of poses.  By 1995, they were using the computer to archive thousands of their drawings and scaling the robot images.  Their working method is to sketch forms and other compositional ideas by hand, and then transfer to the computer using software drawing programs.  From their archive of digital characters, they manipulate them like 'game pieces', experimenting with all kinds of colors and patterns "until the elements are ultimately married in a seamless composition that is scanned and silk-screened." (107)

Eric Chan and Heather Schatz enrolled at Columbia University's MFA program in 1996, and were the first students accepted by the school from a single, collaborative application.  For their thesis show, they initiated a performance approach of inviting outside participation by making a variety of objects and asking students to choose their favorites so that Chan and Schatz could photograph them with their selections. 

In 2005, the Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo, New York held an exhibition of work by ChanSchatz, and the couple invited staff members to choose vocabulary words relating to abstraction.  Then inserting examples of the meanings of these words, the integrated the selections into a large painting that was silkscreened on silk.  In front of the work, they placed individual pillows representing the input of each participant.

On going influences on the collaborative pieces of these two artists in the use of colors, textures and designs of Henri Matisse, the use of scale by James Rosenquist, and social messages of Rirkrit Tiravanija.

Hilarie M. Sheets, "Calling in the Troops", ARTnews, Summer 2007, pp. 104-107

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