Nurya Chana

Nurya Chana

Nurya Chana

Nurya Chana (b.1988, Bronx, NY) paints, sculpts, and performs to grapple with discontinuities between self and other, the inner and outer self, physicality and feeling. Her practice aims to expose the non-mental voices of the body, reconciling life sciences with the complexity, enormity, and potency of livingness.

Skin Windows

2020 Plaster, paper clay, epoxy clay, receipt paper, textiles, packing foam, scrapwood, wire, acrylic, projector, mirror, video 274.32 x 60.96 x 101.6 cm / 108 x 24 x 40 in (approximately)

In a post-humanist approach, Nurya Chana asks performance, sculpture, and painting, to self-declare and become the other, slipping the boundary between animate and inanimate. This effort rearranges subject and object, testing the limits of what is acknowledged as learning, knowing, matter, and living.

Air-Bourne Bottom Feeder

2020 Oil and oil pastel on canvas 198.12 x 157.48 cm / 78 x 62 in

Photosynthetic Hand Cascade

2020 Oil and oil pastel on canvas 198.12 x 157.48 cm / 78 x 62 in

Nurya Chana on her practice

I went to biology as a way of learning the basics of the physical world. I was always amazed that we can walk around and not understand what is going on in our bodies or what’s going on in another person. There are just so many things we are not aware of even in ourselves as we comport ourselves around the world. Biology led me directly back to art because of how it approaches body and life. It seemed severely limited. I’ve been developing an art practice that tries to use art as a way of studying life forms. It’s three part: I’m a performance artist, I make paintings and sculptures and I weave them together in installations. My education in biology pushed me towards art because there were so many pieces of information about the world, about life, that I was supposed to just write down and say, OK, yes. Empiricism is what’s considered a scientific way of learning, but science is not empirical anymore. It’s highly mediated by apparatuses, interpretation and perspective. What people are looking for can change what they see. So for me, I wanted to reinvestigate what is empiricism.

There’s nothing scientific looking about my work, because in thinking about what is empirical, observation-based, and objective, I ended up thinking about senses. It seemed important to me to take the human out of the center of everything. So I tried to integrate and stay out of my mind and go very much into reflecting a kind of reality that seems to pre-exist my thought process. In a way, it makes the materials I work with have agency and they become part of my reality. They get to declare their own reality because I am part of their logic. The process of making these works is performative in that it’s connected to my body and it’s sequential, so I wait for each mark, each move, and then when it happens to me, I do it. It’s quick moves in a slow way.

By doing this practice, I’m relearning how to learn and trying to access a different kind of objectivity than we’re taught. I feel like it’s important to do because what is humanity? Our humanity seems to always be resulting in a very bad and dangerous and hurtful version of itself. It makes me want to ask again, what is a human being, what are we doing here? What are we doing with each other? What are we getting wrong that makes us act in this way?

Hunter MFA

The annual Spring 2020 Thesis Exhibition for graduates of the Hunter College MFA Studio Art program represents works by 19 artist graduates of this nationally noted program. Originally planned as a series of physical presentations at Hunter’s 205 Hudson Street campus in Tribeca, but canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the MFA Thesis Exhibition’s digital iteration aims to provide a new, expanded platform for young artists entering the field.