Interview: Robbie Chanin

Glitterati is the dA’s second open show of the year.  It celebrates all things glittery, shiny, sparkly, and metallic.  Enter Philip “Robbie” Chanin, professional glitterist.  This is his first time exhibiting at the dA, and excitement over his work quickly spread among the gallery.  Internet research produced a hefty amount of photos documenting his work, but very little info about the artist.  Lucky for us, he took the time to answer a few questions about himself, his art, and glitter as a medium.

dA: Tell us a bit about yourself.

Robbie Chanin: My name is Philip Robert Chanin. I’m from a town called Gallatin, Tennessee. I was born deaf, the youngest of four deaf children in a staunchly religious home. I briefly attended Gallaudet University School for the Deaf and Blind during 2006 during a campus uprising now known as Deaf President Now. After selling 500 paintings since I began painting professionally at the age of 19, Director John Cameron Mitchell of “Hedwig And the Angry Inch” fame approached me and commissioned a painting for the movie “Rabbit Hole” (2010) starring Nicole Kidman. In 2010, while living in Washington Dc, actor Kal Penn of “Harrold and Kumar Goes to White Castle” purchased a painting from me.

dA: What made you first want to become an artist?

RC: It was learning to harness the power of artistic voice, as a deaf man, that has humbly taught me that some things are neither right nor wrong, they are just expressions of who we are. I have found that discovering what makes you, ‘you’ is one of the most beautiful gifts we give ourselves. My journey in finding myself has had a longer path because I did not embrace my deafness when I was younger. Lipreading is the art of picking up social cues and responding to your environment, and having been raised in these surroundings I find that I respond to the world through faces–and their expressions.

dA: Can you tell us a little about the mediums you work in? What made you first want to work with glitter?

RC: I work primarily on stretched canvases using acrylic medium paints and various grades of non-toxic glitter. Sometimes, I experiment with inexpensive decorations like tassel, pom-poms, sequins, and beads because I believe that painting is more than the artistic arrangement of the paint medium, it’s a verb of analytical construction and deconstruction, as we have a dialogue with ourselves.

dA: Where does your inspiration come from?

RC: I have been inspired to use inexpensive mediums that are made to look expensive and gaudy. To me, glitter is like a “poor man’s” medium, but used correctly it can make anything shine and sparkle with a value more than it’s actual worth. I am learning to develop other more practical applications for my favorite medium, like using it as a substitution for sand in sand art. Emotionally, my work comes from the unanswered questions I have about strangers, and what their facial expressions convey to me. I work in the abstract portraiture form, and being deaf, I am good at creating a story where none is told.

dA:  Tell us about some of your influences both the obvious ones and the less obvious ones.

RC: I am influenced by the more famous painting legends like Picasso, Monet, and Francis Bacon because I think I identify less with subject matter and stylization and more with my pure love-affair with color and light, as well as learning and experimenting with ideas.

dA: What’s next for you? Do you have any upcoming shows or projects?

RC: I have paintings on display at Gallery U in Montclair, New Jersey (which is operated by people with brain-injuries as a part of their rehabilitation into the workforce), and a fundraising campaign on to raise contributions to build my dream gallery aptly called ‘Glitter Gallery’ to show the world how glitter has changed my life. Currently, I am developing my blog which can be found on: I do lots of animal portraiture commissions; it’s become my ‘thing’ created in glitter (pet caretakers love these commissioned paintings and I’m always pleased to capture the facial expressions of beloved animals).

Don’t miss Glitterati opening this Saturday at the dA:

The dA Center for the Arts Presents:

Glitterati | March 10-31, 2012
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