Alumni Spotlight: Alex Chiou (’07)
Alex Chiou was a member of the Class of 2007, which is gearing up for its ten-year reunion this October. Alex remembers her classmates as one of the best things about her high school experience. “The friends I made and the teachers I had were important,” she says. “It was really motivating to be surrounded by other individuals who are eager to learn and curious about the world and who think outside the box.” She particularly remembers classes with Mr. O’Bryan, Mrs. Dwelle, Mrs. Kowler, Mr. Slipek, and Mr. Sorrentino.
Alex attended the University of Virginia, where she double majored in art and commerce, with respective concentrations in painting, marketing and international business. “You could say one was a choice of passion while the other was a more practical major,” she says. “In the end, they went hand in hand.” She appreciated the opportunity to create a well-rounded curriculum for herself at UVA. She found a tight-knit community in the art department, and she found that her commerce major informed her understanding of her art. “Art is business in a way,” she explains. “Just like every brand has a distinct style, I have my own artistic voice and vision.”
After graduating from UVA, Alex took a research/consulting job in DC. She moved to a small company in digital ad operations after that and has been in ad operations/ad technology since then. She has also spent the past six years in DC applying to art shows and exhibitions. You can see some of her work on her website or on her instagram @alexandrachiou. “DC has a wonderful community of artists,” she says. “I’ve kept these two paths separate for now, but I am looking to merge my business and creative interests. I would love to integrate my interest in teaching and mentoring with my passion for the arts and community engagement.”
Alex graciously answered our questions about working as a visual artist and what’s next for her below:
You’ve been showing your work around the country for the past several years. What has been the best part of that? What has been the most difficult?
I am always energized thinking about my personal growth as an artist. I constantly push myself to experiment and try new things, and am really excited about the continual evolution of my work. I actually studied oil painting in school, but started working with acrylic on paper after graduating due to limited studio space. More recently, I’ve been creating layered cut paper and collaged canvas pieces, exploring the threshold between painting and sculpture.
In addition, I really enjoy getting my work in front of new audiences. Over the years, I’ve had several solo and two-person shows with opportunities to give artist talks, participate in panel discussions and lead curator tours. I love engaging with the community and sharing more about my work and practice.
One big challenge for me has been limited time, and letting that motivate me rather obstruct my productivity, especially while working full-time. It can be tough to balance. I have to set realistic goals reminding myself there are never enough hours in the day.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to a young visual artist?
Never give up. Pursue your dreams. Don’t just talk about doing something – go and do it. It’s easy to say you have plans, but it’s another to follow through on them. I would also say be patient. It takes time to learn how to write an artist statement and exhibit proposal. They didn’t teach any of those things in my art classes in college. Also, get used to all the rejection letters in the beginning; that’s totally normal. They often say if you aren’t getting any rejection letters, then you aren’t applying to enough things. You’ll learn through trial and error, and your success rate will get better over time.
Also, I would say think about your finances and desired lifestyle and how you will support yourself. It’s very rare for artists to financially support themselves solely through their art, especially when you’re starting out.
What’s one thing you’re looking forward to right now, personally or professionally?
I’m really happy about my current artistic direction and am looking forward to continuing my new collaged canvas series. I have always been inspired by the natural world, but many of my latest pieces explore the personal intersection of memory and landscape more specifically.
Also, I recently got engaged and am moving to the West Coast. I have lived in Virginia and the DC area my entire life, so this will be totally new for me. I’m really excited about all the adventures to come