Adam Frezza and Terri Chiao are partners in life, love, and the listless pursuit of running a successful art practice.
I was introduced to CHIAOZZA (like WOW-ZA) while meandering about during the annual Bushwick Open Studios festival. Their bright loft is filled with work that explores craft through colorful collages, playful paintings, imaginative installations, sprightly sculptures, and papier-maché plant forms. After Terri studied Architecture at Columbia and spent several years working in the field, she and Adam, who is a Fine Artist and Sculptor, realized
the potential in their combined skills and mutual love for turning their every-day lives into tangible creative projects. CHIAOZZA have since brought their vibrant creations to solo + group exhibitions, residencies, and workshops all over the world.
Were you art-mates before you got together as a couple, or did your studio partnership evolve along-side your relationship?
We started dating before we started working together as artists. The collaboration of being in a relationship naturally led to our collaborations on other projects and before we knew it we were working together every day!
Do you also create independently of one another?
We love working together and find the collaboration very fruitful and inspiring! But we still take the time to grow projects independently. We both believe it is important for us to keep our ideas flowing and we often grow our collaboration through independent projects we each bring to the table.
How did you become artists? And do you have professions outside the studio?
It has been a fairly organic path for each of us, with varied histories leading us both to our current art practice. Adam started college as an English major before failing and dropping out of various schools. After a year or two hiatus he returned to school as a Graphic Design major at Flagler College. The pre-requisites for his Graphic Design program required many Studio Art classes and through that experience he became an Art major at Flagler. After undergrad he spent one year at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia receiving a Post-Baccalaureate in Studio Art. He now has a Master’s degree in Drawing & Painting from the University of Florida and has been working at building an art career for the past 10 years in New York.
Terri had an interest in art and design since childhood and spent much of her personal time as a kid making things alone in her bedroom. In college, Terri studied Art History and Architectural Studies at Brown University, and went on to get a Master’s in Architecture at Columbia University. During her studies, it became clear that architecture was a lens through which to look at environmental experience in a conceptual, pragmatic, and holistic way. After working at a couple of architecture and design offices in Rotterdam and New York, she felt the growing need for more freedom in the work she was making. Art, rather than specifically architecture or design, seemed to better encompass the projects, ideas, and methods that felt most natural for her practice. This is when she began to think of herself as an artist. We met shortly after and began working together collaboratively in addition to our own practices.
How would you describe the work you create?
We think of our work as playful, curious efforts in seeking ways to activate wonder and imagination. The forms these efforts take are not limited to one medium and although we favor sculpture, we love to experiment with drawing, painting, collage, photography, video, and installation. Finding the perfect medium for an expression isn’t always immediate so we like to keep ourselves open to different material possibilities.
So what is your favorite medium to play with?
In general, sculpture feels most direct and immediate for us to express the forms we’re currently imagining. Building something from scratch and seeing it exist with a physical relationship to our bodies is important to us right now. We love the textures available both in nature and man-made industries and we are in a constant dialogue with the substances we choose to create our work. When we use paper pulp to create sculpture, for instance, we are also creating a three-dimensional canvas for color, mark-making, shape, and surface that adds both a depth and a flatness that we like to bounce between in our work.
If you could do a public installation anywhere, what and where do you think that would be?
One dream is to create a series of climbable, interactive bronze abstract lumpy plant-form sculptures somewhere where many people can interact and engage with the work, like Central Park or the High Line. The sculptures would have relief patterns coming off the surface, encouraging and inviting people to touch different parts of the sculptures, also revealing a shine and patina over time, based upon each sculpture’s unique ‘areas of engagement’. We also love the idea of walking into one of our sculptures and creating secret, magical spaces that allow for a more intimate moment within the larger experience of the installation. Of course, we will continue to pursue work that helps to pave the way for an installation of this scope and scale;)
Do you take on any corporate or commercial projects?
We have worked with a few different companies to create installations as backdrops for experiential environments. It is an interesting challenge to fit our work into a specific arena in this way, where the sculptures act almost as props or set design. When given the proper timeline and budget, we enjoy these kinds of jobs. It expands our playing field and allows us to see our work through a multitude of lenses.
What kind of creative partnerships have you done? It seems like an incredible way to cross-promote and to challenge yourself to think outside your usual process.
Most recently we’ve been working with an international arts organization called Biome Arts designing and building what we’re calling the Greenhouse Theater, which is a small, habitable structure at the center of artist Mary Mattingly’s SWALE project. Mattingly’s SWALE is a floating food forest on a barge which is traveling the waterways of New York City this summer. It is currently on its way to Governor’s Island and will be open to the public! We had the opportunity to work with a lot of great people on this project, and it is impressive to note that all of the labor was volunteered and all materials were purchased through fundraising and donation. It was truly a labor of love!
Of course, we need to balance our professional practice with jobs that pay us for our efforts. This past spring, we teamed up with Opening Ceremony for their collaboration with Teva sandals to create a large-scale set piece that was used for a video, highlighting the new OCxTEVA designs. It was stimulating to work with the creative and vibrant people at OC, with whom we had an active back and forth dialogue to try and come up with the best framework for the launch. We love how the sculpture we built turned out, and in an age of fast fashion, it was super refreshing to have the set design piece repurposed and augmented for in-store display rather than quickly made into rubbish.
You have been in Brooklyn for a while now - what do you like best about the creative community?
There are a lot of people doing a LOT of different things here. As artists, we do not want to limit ourselves to one mode of production and with so many people doing so many different things, New York is a wonderful place to find people who can relate to what we are trying to do. We think of the people we meet, work with, and adore as our artist family. We want to surround ourselves with people we respect and are excited to support so we can all help each other grow and thrive though our own individual goals as artists.
Photos by Inna Shnayder