Alumna uses movement, light to create performance-based images

Lia Chavez (BA ’03) admits that her parents were justified in opposing her decision to pursue a career in art on the grounds that the lifestyle of an artist is “too unstable.”

Nonetheless, Chavez’s upbringing nurtured her artistic proclivities. She remembers her Midwestern childhood home as a creative and magical place made endlessly exciting by her inspirational mother, who composed impressionistic paintings as a hobby. Chavez’s father, a biologist and theologian, encouraged his daughter’s interest in philosophy and metaphysics, both which now inform her art.

“I think the path of the artist is something that chooses you,” Chavez says. “For as far back as I can remember, I always knew I was an artist.”

Creating art requires tremendous independence of thought, according to Chavez, who — in addition to majoring in international studies at DU — has advanced degrees in art, photography, gender theory and urban cultures.

Chavez began her career as a painter before her interest in what she describes as the “less tangible materials of light and movement” prompted her to move on to photographic art.

Using single-frame, still photography, Chavez transforms physical human forms into images that appear intangible and fluid.

“I’m fascinated with exploring the more subtle aspects of the body’s physicality and how they serve as a bridge between the physical and metaphysical,” says Chavez, who draws inspiration from her daily life in London. “Images representing solid, static subjects are actually far more ‘abstract’ than my images, since the world we live in is one of duration and constant flux.”

From examining the co-existence of the gorgeous and grotesque through large-scale oil paintings, photographs and videos, to collaborating with documentary filmmakers, choreographers and other artists, Chavez’s life as an artist, like her work, is one of perpetual motion.

“To be an artist is to be free, or at the least to constantly move toward freedom,” she says. “Despite its occasional impracticalities, that is why I love and feel grateful for this profession.”

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