The ideas for Chris Roberts Antieau’s art come from personal experience, from illness to “the strangeness of our culture,” she says. “It’s from the gut, it’s raw and it’s childlike.”
The fabric artist, who shows her work at her gallery on Royal Street, points to a piece that displays a woman standing in a garden, dressed in red, as winged hands wrap her upper torso with bandages. Antieau explains it as the product of an epiphany after being diagnosed with breast cancer.
“It made me realize the finite amount of time for which we are here. I don’t look back on this with sorrow, because friends made treatments into a party for me by coming to the hospital with balloons, conversation and cheer,” she said.
Another work on display, titled “Celebrity Mug Shots,” offers sewn images of popular celebrities labeled with their names — and their dates of arrest in parentheses.
Antieau’s ideas come from everywhere, and they “roll around” in her mind until she sketches and then cuts and sews fabric pieces together, she said.
“I am ... influenced by the strangeness of our culture and by stories of misfortune,” she said. “My new work is about being finite in life.”
Snow globes are another medium. “They provide a ‘happy place’ or an escape,” she said. “I bring the horror of real life into them. It’s funny and truthful to me.”
Growing up in Michigan with parents who encouraged her talents and self-direction, as early as age 4 Antieau spent time designing clothes based on what was in her mother’s Vogue magazine. As an adult she sold her first soft sculpture for $18 and thought perhaps she could make art for a living.
Antieau traveled to art festivals throughout the country with her fabric art and started to make money. Eventually, she came to the Jazz and Heritage Festival and fell in love with New Orleans.
Not only was the weather better than in Michigan, but she also felt like she belonged.
“I always felt like a weirdo in other places,” Antieau said. “In New Orleans, the individual is celebrated.”
But she still travels back and forth.
“I love the contrast between the North and the South, the hot and the cold, the isolation I have in Michigan and the stimulation I have in New Orleans,” she said.
Antieau’s works are owned by Oprah Winfrey, Bill Clinton, Lyle Lovett, John Waters and Sen. Sam Nunn, among other collectors. She recently returned from the prestigious juried Smithsonian Annual Craft Show.
“I have had no formal training,” she said. “Instead, I have trusted my gut. I walked out of the one drawing class I took in high school because the teacher wanted me to draw what he saw. I can only draw what I see.”
To see more of her work visit Antieau Gallery on 927 Royal St. or her website, www.chrisroberts-antieau.com.