Chryssha Guidry's defining moments as a practicing artist

Photos provided by Chryssha Guidry.

In this ArtsNow discussion, Chryssha Guidry exemplifies how a case of millennial wanderlust can work to one’s creative entrepreneurial advantage, perspective and hustle.

Guidry’s work examines the counter-psychological fortunes of letting go of control and expectations, trading it in for non-traditional experiences. She studied psychology and studio art at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida. There, she was exposed to practices in art therapy and got savvy on navigating an escape from her mental blocks, which has proved to be pivotal in her post-college decisions and ongoing creative work.

AN: Was there a time that directed your process, subject or approach to your work?  

CG: I was a very literal painter prior to college. I knew what I was going to create before I would even start, but college brought the abstract work out of me. And if it wasn’t for this one difficult professor, I’m not sure I would have broken into a style, my style.

AN: Explain…

CG: I had a critique that went really well and when I got my grade, I was completely blindsided by the professor. He gave me a B, which isn’t a big deal but when it was your one and only B, it was a big deal – I was a very high-performing perfectionist. So I approached him and asked him why he gave me that grade and he said to me, ‘You’re not pushing yourself, you already see what you’re making.’ Then he advised me to ‘do something different.’

AN: So, what did you do?

CG: Out of complete anger and frustration, I took old canvas paintings and started mixing [materials], like water, wood stain, wood thinner, wood stripper, spray paint — you name it — with acrylic paint. I saw an instant reaction with this application and just kept messing with it. I was forced to stay in the moment with what was happening — although I didn’t know what was going to happen.

This anger-fueled experimentation turned into some interesting abstract pieces and the process actually helped me work through some of my controlling tendencies. After that, I began making three abstract paintings each night. I realized I had to let go of any ideal or expectation and I had a lot of it in me. This new methodology, if you can even call it that, became therapeutic for me and is now what I gravitate towards; it’s very counter to my type-A personality.  

Works by Guidry

AN: Have there been other defining moments that has impacted your creativity?

CG: Right out of college I traveled cross country for a year. I worked in visual arts for music festivals. I did live-painting, and I vended vintage clothes or food whenever I didn’t have a painting gig.

AN: Sounds like a unique form for learning entrepreneurship?

CG: Oh definitely. It gave me some of the best work-experience of my life. I had to stay on my toes and see, or really, create opportunities when they weren’t obvious or there. It’s hard to put experience into ‘resume words’ or in a CV. When I tell people about it, especially artistically minded people, they really appreciate it.

AN: What do you remember about this experience?

CG: Consuming an immense amount of canned black beans and avocado! [In all] seriousness, the festival world is a crazy scene; it has its own culture. The people there, that is there life. They go from place to place to place, and it’s a certain style and a certain type of person who can do this. These people helped to show me how let go of mainstream.

Guidry’s Chevy conversation van.

AN: Was there a time you just didn’t know what to do?

CG: Well, it’s crazy to think that I almost didn’t go. Actually, it was the exact day I was suppose to leave, that I was certain I wouldn’t – even though I had done all the prep steps. I had even bought a Chevy conversion van, which I worked through college to be able to buy. But my dad came to me and said, ‘You’re young and you haven’t fallen off your horse yet, so if you’re going to do it now is the time to do it, just take the chance.’ It was super empowering.

AN: What did his words do for you?

CG: It helped me give myself permission to take a bold leap. Even today, his words remind me that you can create all the reasons to not do something, but if experience hasn’t shown you valid reasons to not go for it, then you trust yourself to make it out good.

AN: So, how was it that you ended up in NC? 

CG: I saw a lot of places in my festival-hopping year of travel, which helped me decide where to relocate. Asheville was what stuck with me the most so that’s how I got to NC. I was there for about two years and quickly connected in the arts scene there. Romance brought me to Raleigh, which is where I’ve been for over a year now. 

AN: How did the travel impact you once you were settled back in one city?

CG: That feeling of insatiable wanderlust was fulfilled and allowed me to really dive into creating. Opportunities didn’t feel scary and I was open to creating a career and learned that it was okay to explore everything in life. The travel has been a direct metaphor to my interpretation on life – take chances and trust yourself to find a way to creatively problem solve your way through it.

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AN: What’s your biggest hurdle you’re facing now? 

CG: Time management. We all know what it’s like, when you have free time to yourself, it’s the question of, should you rest or socialize or indulge in painting. It’s not hard for me to switch between the desk job and the creative life, but it’s knowing how to time manage and how to deal with the stress of work.

AN: What do would you say to others who are in art school or recent graduates?

CG: The hardest thing as a young artist is the mental questioning: ‘Can I make a living or should I have a career and make art a side hustle?’ Or, ‘Is it even OK for art to be a side hustle?’ A majority of my creative peers just stopped making after college all together and I think that’s the even worse than the questioning.

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As a member of the Submerged Artist Group, which meets each fourth Monday of the month at VAE Raleigh, Guidry isn’t laying the creative life to rest. The group is a collective of artists 30 and under post grads who are actively juggling work, teaching, making and showing art who want to continue saying yes to creative opportunities. Guidry’s work was included in the “Submerged” group exhibit at The Mahler earlier this year.

Currently, Guidry’s work is up at Bottega Salon on Glenwood South, and soon she’ll have her video work at Foundation, but you can always follow her adventures and creative experimentations on Instagram.


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