Karaoke can be anything you want it to be and, for this dynamic duo, it was the spawn of something great. It sparked a partnership which gave birth to their design project, "Chiaozza". Adam Frezza and Terri Chiao, although from different backgrounds, have come together seamlessly with their unique take on things. Their openness to the different facets of the world comes out beautifully in their art. It is no shock that staples in the fashion industry are eager to bring their vision to the masses.
When did you get into the arts?
Adam: By failing out of other subjects at school then starting college and not really knowing what I wanted to do. I started doodling in class instead of taking notes and realized everything I was learning wasn’t really satisfying me, so I dropped out. When I came back to school I knew I wanted to do something with art. I suddenly felt right. I got support, began to learn more, and realized I could do art better than anything I came across.
Terri: For me I started with getting an Art History degree in college and I was always interested in something creative. Growing up with immigrant parents, it didn't seem like an option to be an artist because I guess to them it didn't seem like a professional thing to do. I ended up finding out through Art History that I really enjoyed architecture which led me to go to Architecture school as Graduate student. I worked as an architectural designer for a little while yet I became disillusioned by the job itself. I found what I was really interested in was how people interact with their environment.
Once I broke out of thinking of myself having to be a designer working in a certain way, I came to realize that being an artist is dealing with the same questions, just more open ended, and found my vision of life to be more suited for what would be described as an artist. I started calling myself an artist three years ago right before I met Adam.
How did you meet?
Adam: We were at a karaoke bar with friends singing songs and we had noticed each other a few times throughout the night. Later on, I was hearing this old R&B ballad “I Swear” but it sounded a little flat so I crept in to help out. I guess you could say that was our first collaboration.
Terri: It was completely random meeting.
Adam: ...and we have been collaborating ever since.
Have you found any difficulties in collaborating?
Terri: I think both of us had collaborated with other people before. For myself, as an architect you're inevitably working with many people. In school, I had found a group of friends who I was able to collaborate with constantly. I feel like that comes very easily for me. I think that when Adam and I met he was also doing a large amount of casual collaborations with friends, so maybe both of us were more experienced.
Adam: Casual collaborations are a nice way to segue into working with someone where it doesn't have to feel like this huge commitment at first, and before you know it, you've created a body of work together. It is not about pressure on yourself, more about experimentation, and play. That is always a big part of our work, making sure we’re having as much fun as we can together.
Terri: I think our collaboration really relies on that aspect, 'the play'. We call it 'the play' as a tool for collaboration. You’re constantly going back and forth with each other and then there is an element of fun which just makes it easier to work together and not take yourself so seriously with your own ego.
Adam: Relinquishing your ego is a big part of it. Being gracious with ideas where it doesn’t matter who made that move because we will remember in the end.
Terri: ...But it’s fun when we forget who did what.
Do you find your ideas come out more fluidly since you began to work with each other and does that cause you to constantly push each other to new heights?
Adam: Both.
Terri: I feel like the pushing is interesting because I’d say our work before we met shared a similar spirit of a general playfulness but in different ways. Now that we’ve been working together for a little while. I feel like working with Adam has loosened up my style of working in a small way. I like that. I had a different method from my previous background.
Where are your sources of inspiration?
Adam: Our inspiration comes a lot from traveling such as going into the nature, going into the desert, and getting involved in artist communities that bring us to different parts of the world. It is a collection period, we are not walking into a desert everyday. We are walking out onto Borgart [Brooklyn]. It shakes our foundation so our everyday is exposed in a different way. Our house is a block away from our studio. It feels like a neighborhood to us. We also have our houseplants which is apart of our everyday. The practice lead to the “Paper Plants” because we continued to tend with our art. Bringing nature to the concrete jungle.
Terri: We are not mimicking nature and we are not trying to make something better than nature. We do kind of think of ourselves as botanists, because we are shaping a sculpture into something we desire to see such as plants. In a way, the bright color aspect comes in and we want to bring it to the sculpture of the plants. This has a connection to being in New York but you are always limited by space. You cannot have enormous trees in your apartment unless you have a huge apartment. We do have a lot of plants but it is put together in a way that you have to find a way for it to your work for yourself. This is how we make it work. We have a spiritual engagement with our work.
How open do you find the art world?
Adam: In the art world, the upper echelon is when the rich spend a huge amount on a small handful on art. We created a design offshoot of our studio to counteract this. We started Chiaozza and wall sculptures. When we made that venture, it grew our idea of what an artist did could also be accessible and sold. It is hard to sell art in galleries. We have been trying to be creative on how to maintain and fund our practice. I think is accessible in New York.
Terri: I think there are a lot of things that are changing with social media regarding access to artists that would be otherwise hard to see. We have been contacted by blogs and magazines that have seen our work through social media. There is an organization that started in New York which is similar and gives support to local farmers since it helps the general public engage in art collecting of local artists.
When it comes to your art work, do you think of the everyday person or is it more of an extension of yourself?
Adam: I think it is the latter.
Terri: I do think we think about ourselves first. For a long time, I worked in design where it was always the function, the design, and the client first. Ultimately, it felt as if I could not express what I wanted to see in the world. This is part of the reason working as an artist became interesting to me. I feel like it has been really refreshing to work with what you want first. We do not show everything we create.
Adam: There is a lot of working out the ideas and seeing what we prefer. If we do something that we are particularly excited about then it might be ready to be shown to the public. The real work happens, in the process of making it and sticking with it.
Do you have any future plans?
Terri: We have been thinking about public art. At the University of Florida, we will be doing a huge scale public art work. Our hopes and dreams are leaning towards being public work artists. I think we both think about the experience of everything we have seen and how powerful it can be on how you see the everyday. I believe public art gives the experience to all.
Adam: We are working on small works that can be used as inspiration to our large scale projects.