Of the many rites of passage open to young artists today, trolling Chanel is perhaps the most fun. Twenty-four-year-old Canadian-born painter, sculptor, and video artist Chloe Wise isn’t the first to find inspiration in the fashion house’s iconic interlocking C‘s. Artists Rhonda Lieberman and Cary Leibowitz’s Chanel Hanukkah refashioned a gold quilted Chanel handbag into a menorah—replete with lipstick “candles”—for their “The Fake Chanel Show” in 1992; Tom Sachs designed a Chanel surfboard and later a logo-emblazoned, life-size Chanel guillotine. But the art-world establishment has had a far more difficult time coming to terms with Wise’s appropriations, wondering whether to read it as a joke, homage, budding trend, or art piece.
Since 2013, Wise has been churning out oil-painted plastic urethane molds of baguettes, bagels, and challah for her sculptural designer Bread Bags series. But it was her over-the-shoulder purse titled Bagel No. 5—a urethane piece craftily embellished with Chanel’s signature leather-and-chain strap and logo keychain—that had its 15 minutes on Instagram when her friend, actress-model India Menuez, asked to wear it to a Chanel dinner last year. “I said, ‘Girl, I would say no, because this is not to be worn, but it is hilarious performance art, and what a comedic statement to show up wearing all Chanel to a Chanel dinner with this trolling image of this bag,’ ” Wise recalls. Though the outing wasn’t premeditated, such publicity stunts are old hat to Wise, whose artistic practice often finds a second life in meta, tongue-in-cheek marketing campaigns perfectly suited for the internet age. A Photoshopped ad poster for Ain’t No Challah Back(pack) Girl (2014) features another model pal wearing a loaf of Challah on her back with the unmistakable Prada logo; fake ad copy sells the bag as “secular, or not” and “spiritually focused.”
Wise says she “became aware of my consumer desires around bat mitzvah age,” when her friends were getting the very “it” bags she parodies today. It’s clear from her body of work that she revels in Jewish camp; she’s made wall sculptures out of bacon titled Star of Larry David (2013) and Star of Larry David (Very Badly Burnt) (2014). Still, bread remains her medium of choice since it operates as “a symbol for wealth and dough and bread-winning.” Her food-centric pieces will be the center of her first two solo shows this spring at Galerie Division, in Montreal, and Galerie Sébastien Bertrand, in Geneva, both of which fall before her 25th birthday.
Like many of the post-internet artists in her peer group, Wise is first and foremost a “digital native,” but few have gone as far as she in embracing her identity as “a millennial and someone with ADD. I slave over my work while giggling, chugging green juice, and taking photos of myself,” she says. “I’m not like this tortured artist drinking wine doing a ten-year painting. I can’t.” Perhaps what sets Wise apart is the fact that she calls herself a comedian. Last year, for her series Literally Me, she spoofed selfie culture to the nth degree, showing up to her Bushwick studio in trashy or just plain ugly outfits and forcing herself to paint one large-scale self-portrait per day. Before leaving each night, she would lounge in front of her day’s work, taking videos and photo selfies. “Canada didn’t know what to do with funny work,” she muses. Well, the jokes are certainly landing in New York.