Passage Arts x Troy Chew


Troy Chew is an artist on the rise. Born in Southern California, he explores the legacy of the African diaspora and how it persists in his own backyard. Chew works methodically to understand how the African diaspora is translated and mistranslated. He explores how individual African nations were impacted by the transatlantic slave trade in his series, Out of the Mud, and he charts local language and urban slang in his newest series, Slanguage. Chew combines hip-hop, Dutch still lifes and ideas of “high art” and “low art.” He expertly uses juxtaposition to reveal tears in the social fabric.

Chew’s resume is as expansive as his interests. He studied at the University of California, Merced and earned his MFA at the California College of Art. Next, he joined the Headlands Center for the Arts as a Graduate Fellow and won the prestigious Tournesol Award.

Chew spoke with Passage Arts about his experience as an up-and-coming artist. “ I'm in the emerging stages of my career,” he explains. Chew is finding success and exhibiting work, but he has reservations about traditional galleries. Chew works in series: Out of the Mud can take him anywhere to explore the nuances of the African diaspora, and Slanguage can take him to any city with its own vocabulary from Houston to the Bay Area. “My goals for the next stages of my career are expanding my audience and expanding opportunities,” he says. Chew wants to find more ways to make more art and share it with more people.

Passage Arts asked Chew what he needs most as a young artist. “The main thing that I need, and what most artists need from the art world to pursue our goals, is more money and more opportunities.” Chew wants advocates in the art world whose communication with him is open and honest. He wants collaborators instead of representatives. “I wish the art world and the gallery system were more transparent,” Chew says. “There are so many opportunities, but there are a lot of gatekeepers.”

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