Growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Christoper Regner fell in love with the artistic practice via comic art, inspiring “many poorly drawn copies of Sonic the Hedgehog and Spiderman,” he tells It’s Nice That. Following “years of copying other people’s drawings”, Chris serendipitously ended up at an arts-focused high school where he was encouraged to create artwork reflecting his own experiences. Followed by an undergrad in drawing and an MFA in painting from Rhode Island School of Design, “Oddly enough I find myself depicting things that inspired me as a child again, such as video games, super soakers and the like,” he explains.
The result is a painting practice which is uniquely personal to Chris, yet leaves plenty of room for interpretation for the viewer. Describing the work he makes as “autobiographical, satirical, grotesque, and humiliating,” each of the artist’s works visually build connections between his experiences and grander narratives or mythologies. “This is a way for the viewer to better understand the specifics of the personal narratives that I’m conveying,” says Chris, pointing to subjects such as masculinity, technology and ideologies. Each approached with a lick of satire, “as a means to criticise and create empathy for the subject matter I am depicting,” the layers of his artworks, their meanings and the crafted techniques used, create pieces you’ll find yourself endlessly staring at.
Though he mentions the themes in his work, it’s difficult to assume the deeper subject matter of Chris’ works given the vastness of references which often appear. Asking the artist further about this approach, he explains: “I tend to humiliate myself frequently in the work,” highlighting his That’s My Boy series as an example of “self-portraits of my failures, neurotic nature, and vices as a flawed person.” For instance, in That’s My Boy No.5 (Father Devouring Son Devouring Son), the artist channels his own feelings via the ancient myth of Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Son. Visually considering “a new father’s fears of continuing a cycle of abuse and the fear of being taken over by youth,” Chris combines animals and human limbs “as a way to discuss my own fears and inner conflicts, and the fight between nature and nature,” he says.
The series as a whole links back to a personal instance, “a rumination on my lack of a father figure growing up and where I look to fill that need,” he explains. This is possibly more obvious in his piece, Father Figure No.4 (Weekend Warrior) in which the artist conveys the idea of “playing with a dad through the eyes of a child.” Featuring kids playing with toy guns, although posing as if they’re real, this depiction is Chris contemplating how they could be “attempting to play tough guy roles but failing due to their lack of experience or equipment,” he says. The father figure is then presented as a brick wall – “dilapidated and offers little in the way of shielding,” the artist describes. “The dad isn’t offering the support, protection, or structure they need, and they do not know how to properly operate. The father offers no wisdom and they are left to their own devices to figure out the life ahead of them.”
Given how Chris’ works couple together structural and personal feelings, alongside hints of further contemporary references, the artist applies a similarly layered approach in his technical craft. To create his pieces, which often appear like a number of works and ideas meshed together in juxtaposition, Chris first uses an airbrush with acrylic. This is then applied “primarily on wet-sanded polyester or canvas over panels,” on a surface always made to be eggshell smooth, to ensure the canvas texture won’t interfere with the image. Moulding paste and pumice is then used, with the pumice offering “a gritty, grainy look that makes paint applied over it appear matte,” whereas moulding paste allows the artist to “carve and sculpt, creating a perfect surface to layer airbrushed paint over.”
As an artist who primarily works alone, the disruptions of 2020 haven’t affected Chris’ practice too much. In fact, he says he’s found himself in the studio more than previous years. “Otherwise I’m a bit of a homebody, so my life hasn’t felt fundamentally different this year,” he continues. “I find myself more on edge and anxious, as I’m sure everyone is, but being an artist requires a lot of isolation, so I’m pretty well practiced in staying home.” The fact that everyone else has also been at home additionally opened more doorways for the artist’s practice – albeit digitally. “I’ve had more opportunities arise digitally,” he concludes also adding how, “there does seem to be more acceptance for living in cities and states that aren’t necessarily art hubs as things become digitally-focused,” an interesting positive we hope continues into the coming year.
Chris Regner: Grocery Store Flower Apology, 24 x 20, 2020
About the Author
Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019 she was made deputy editor and in November 2021, became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.