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chris roberts antieau
Fabric appliqué artist Chris Roberts-Antieau pictured here at Antieau Gallery in New Orleans

Art Essay: Success Was Self-Taught By This Artist

By James C. Weaver
ART TIMES online January 2014

Chris Roberts-Antieau thinks art schools often destroy innate creativity and many student artists along with it. Being told she could not draw made her an instant art school dropout, but it did not change her mind about becoming an artist. “I knew I had artistic talent,” she recalls, “all I had to do was figure out how I could earn a living with it.” Now more than three decades later she is by every measure a great success.

Today, Chris has nine employees, her own gallery in the French Quarter of New Orleans, plus more than a dozen other galleries across the country who handle her work, and, of course, a website. She produces more than three-dozen new fabric paintings each year and a number of works from previous years are also available.

Ten Things To Be Thankful For
The artist often illustrates lists in her works like this piece titled “Ten Things To Be Thankful For.”

Working from her original “fabric paintings”, two talented staff members do the basic cutting and sewing. Then Chris does all the detail work on each one. It is labor intensive and time-consuming work, but the results are of significant quality and craftsmanship.

Chris is constantly shopping for fabric, and although she has several regular suppliers, she also searches the Internet and explores fabric shops whenever she is traveling. Fabrics are her color palate and essential component of her designs. Recently, Chris has also been offering workshops in fabric appliqué for persons who are interested in learning the her techniques.

While she is acquiring new buyers on a regular basis through her galleries and the annual Ann Arbor Crafts Festival, she also maintains a mailing list of over 7,500 names (many former customers) who are some of her best supporters. She has also exhibited at both the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show and at the Smithsonian Craft Show in Washington, DC. Chris has also shown her work several times the Basel Show in Miami.

A large work of a blues singer titled “The Blues Saved My Life” illustrates the artist’s enjoyment of this musical genre.
A large work of a blues singer titled “The Blues Saved My Life” illustrates the artist’s enjoyment of this musical genre.

She has had four separate exhibits of her fabric paintings at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore and several of her works are part of its permanent collection. This unique museum is devoted to self-taught artists. Chris also has fabric paintings in the collection of the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

With the help of her son, a marketing specialist, Chris has been staging a series of “pop up” gallery shows in various cities around the country. “We find an empty store front in a heavy traffic commercial area and rent it for a month,” she explains. “Then we convert it to a temporary art gallery and promote it like crazy.” She has held successful pop up galleries in New Orleans, Portland, Ann Arbor, and in Manhattan's Soho District. She plans to open one in London, England in 2014. The New Orleans gallery was so successful in 2010 that it has became a permanent gallery. It’s her goal to own five permanent galleries.

(James C. Weaver lives in Cornwall, PA.)

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