Local Artists Interpret Classic and Stolen Art With a Twist

Saint Matthew and the Angel After Caravaggio (detail), by Chadwick & Spector at Redbud Gallery.EXPAND
Saint Matthew and the Angel After Caravaggio (detail), by Chadwick & Spector at Redbud Gallery.
Photo by Chadwick & Spector

When long-term artists refer to their body of work, they rarely mean a physical body, but for local artist duo Chadwick & Spector, integrating the human body into art is how they express themselves.

The pair, Chadwick Gray and Laura Spector, interpret existing classic and stolen art with a twist, with Spector adding Gray’s body to the compositions. The result is a two-dimensional image with the curves of the human body simultaneously interrupting and adding a third dimension to the image. They have been producing art together for 20 years.

Gus Kopriva, owner of Redbud Gallery, which is hosting an upcoming gallery show of the pair’s art, says Chadwick and Spector’s work made an impression on him when he first saw it.

“I like the concept of taking a figure and molding it into sculpture,” he says. “They’re taking a two-dimensional piece and turning it into a three-dimensional form, which is not done a lot.”

“The result is pleasing to the eye, and it’s just different.”

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Spector copies esoteric works from the 19th century onto a background, often with dark or surreal elements, and completes the image on Gray’s body using perspective and body contours to create an image that changes depending on the angle. She sometimes enlists the help of her husband, a theater director, to help pose Gray or help him establish a mood and postures. Once the project is completed, she then photographs the various images that arise from it.

“Even a breath or blink can change the photo completely,” she says. “When I cast (Gray’s) body, I try and do things to mimic or tell a further story to create a scenario that works with the painting.”

The whole process from beginning to end can take an entire day, but the result produces effects that can be captivating to show attendees.

“It’s always surprising to see people spend time with the images,” Spector says. “Statistics say that people spend seven seconds with an image, but because it’s on a human body, people spend more time with it. Sometimes they’re emulating the poses, and sometimes they are trying to see Chadwick in the project.”

Spector’s approach is often dark, but she has started to include lighter themes in recent years, as well as new perspectives. They've even teamed up with the FBI's art crime division to start representing stolen art.

"Each painting has a life of its own (based on) whoever is in the work and who the artist is portraying," Spector says.  "When it's stolen, it sees where it's hidden, and we like to reinterpret that in our projects.”

The pair moved to Houston in 2014, and they’ve received mostly positive critiques for their studio shows at Winter Street Studios. The response has exceeded expectations because of the clash between the prevailing art at local galleries and their style.

“Our work is total maximalism,” she says, “It’s everything. Here we moved to a city where minimalism is king, and we’re bringing absolutely everything to our work.”

There’s an opening reception from 6 to 9 p.m., February 6 and through February 29 at Redbud Gallery, 303 East 11th in The Heights, open from noon to 5 p.m. Wednesdays to Sundays and by appointment; For information, call 713-862-253 or visit redbudgallery.com.

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