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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Chelsea Rae Klein's Beautiful, Dark Dreams

Posted By on Tue, Mar 29, 2011 at 8:55 AM

Self-Portrait 2009 - CHELSEA RAE KLEIN
  • Chelsea Rae Klein
  • Self-Portrait 2009

100 Profiles:

SF Weekly interviews 100 people in San Francisco arts and culture.

No. 93: Chelsea Rae Klein

Chelsea Rae Klein is an artist on a mission. Her fine art photography -- gorgeous, often unsettling dreamscapes -- focuses on brilliant, surprising explorations of bodies beyond place and time. Klein is also the founder, publisher and editor of Descry Magazine, a visual arts publication dedicated to supporting emerging artists with an emphasis on women, people of color, and queers. Her work with Descry has recently -- and organically -- expanded into a full-blown arts organization that expands the mission of the magazine to include grant and exhibition opportunities.

Klein is also founder and developmental director of Through the Lens, an arts education workshop for elders, people with developmental and physical differences, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth.

The tonal mood of Descry and of Klein's art is fantastically, beautifully dark. And that darkness can be a portal into a gorgeous sort of underbelly where people are afraid to look truly, deeply and with compassion, Klein says.

"Dark is good, dark brings people to an uncomfortable place that I think it is important to visit and even live in for a while," Klein says. "I find all of these experiences critical for intimacy and human connectedness."

Klein says "queer" is a word that seems to be shapeless and constantly redefined, and the way she describes it resonates strongly.

"Queer, to me, is embracing the shape of our bodies and the texture of our skin -- wanting to express and prod at, and understand these things," she says.

It isn't necessarily about gender or sexual orientation, she says, but about our shapelessness, how we connect with our bodies and the world.

Klein says dreams have been a strong influence in her work and process.

"I have been accused of dreaming all the time, living in dreams," she says. "The subconscious has incredible insight. Sometimes I can't pinpoint or understand things in words, only feelings and imagery."

Untitled, from the 2010 series, We Dream in the Daytime Too - CHELSEA RAE KLEIN
  • Chelsea Rae Klein
  • Untitled, from the 2010 series, We Dream in the Daytime Too

Asked what inspired her to transition from making art to making a magazine to making an organization, Klein says she is motivated by challenge.

"When things dry up or stagnate, I become restless and uninspired," she says. "I want to engage people in meaningful ways, to live and express visually and to learn from the process."

She says her photography and Descry have naturally evolved based on what she calls "equally selfish and unselfish needs."

Untitled, from the 2009 series, Animal at Sea - CHELSEA RAE KLEIN
  • Chelsea Rae Klein
  • Untitled, from the 2009 series, Animal at Sea

That Klein thrives on challenge is apparent. Starting a magazine meant starting a website, so she taught herself Adobe InDesign (a page-layout program) and Flash (a web animation tool). She found a printer for the magazine, and went about the task of curating and organizing the overwhelming amount of data on artists and venues.

"Descry's first year was an incredible time, and a huge emotional and financial investment," she says.

Asked what's next for the magazine, Klein's answer is equally ambitious.

"We have just launched our online gallery and will be offering a Woman and Queer Photographer grant/award later this year," she says. "The eventual goal is to expand our physical engagement in the community, which may eventually translate to opening a Descry space."

Klein sees Descry as a comprehensive way to support artists.

"I just plan on continuing to naturally evolve this way," she says.

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