If you have passed by Flatiron in the past couple of years, you may be familiar with the work of artist Chelsea Hrynick Browne. Beautifully crafted colorful snowflakes dangled, inviting you inside to take a closer look. In this setting, she created an ideal winter wonderland, which gave the city a distinctive kind of vibrancy during the holiday season. Her overall style can be defined by a meticulous use of kirigami origami pieced together in rainbow sequences. She does this by cutting out paper and configuring them geometrically to create a kaleidoscope vortex of color. However, she wants to contribute more than just an aesthetically pretty palette. Her aim as an artist is to bring optimism to her viewers in a unique way. Her paper “painting” collages can be seen on the walls of hospitals throughout the country including The University of Iowa Children’s Hospital and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. This artwork succeeds in giving the artist and viewer a sense of joy and healing.
How did you discover your artistic style? What was the process?
Traveling had tremendous impact on my artist style. I studied in Japan for a summer in HS and Italy in college. I fell in love with public art for spiritual/ community purposes. The paper structures in the Hiroshima peace park and ornate detailed mosaic details in churches in Florence combined in my heart and inspired me to create geometric paper mandalas to place in public places and places of healing.
Did you always know you’d be an artist?
My heart always knew but there were aspects of myself and my community that made me hesitant.
What did you learn most about yourself in art school? Did being in art school limit your capacity to branch out and individualize your own voice as an artist?
I didn’t go to art school. I went to the University of Wisconsin. I started out as a biomedical engineer, and then shifted to a double major in mathematics and woodwork. Being in art school did not limit my capacity. If my capacity had “been limited” at any point in my life… for any reason… I believe this is ultimately a lesson in disguise to teach me how to grow fuller in the future. Limited capacity and wasted time are illusions, and uncomfortable illusions to believe in.
What is some advice you can impart on other art students who want to break into the art scene?
Constantly question yourself why you want to do what you want to do. I believe there are many paths to accomplish goals. Remember to take time to relax…I found a true love for yoga in my late 20’s. Try not to sacrifice yourself for your “art”. You sacrifice yourself enough for “life”. I believe beautiful ripples from people creating in the world are often invisible in the material sense. Work to create a better you more than create better art. Don’t forget other people who are struggling more. Take time to appreciate people that help you. AVOID SEXIST BS LIKE THE PLAGUE.
How did your display at Flatiron come about?
The Flatiron came to me through meeting the curator Cheryl McGinnis. I was friends with her son’s ceramics teacher.
What is the most rewarding thing about having your paintings displayed at different hospitals and what impact do you think your vibrant artwork has on the patients?
The most rewarding thing about having my paintings displayed at different hospitals is when I get random emails from family members of patients. This is rare, but it means a lot to know that my work is impacting people positively long after I create it. I like knowing my work is still radiating some healing energy years after I create it. I think my artwork often has more impact on the family members and staff of patients.
What are your longterm goals in as you progress as an artist?
My longterm goals as an artist are to create different kinds of artwork in collaboration with other creative people and groups. I also want to develop a teaching practice to help guide others to places where they feel inspired and confident to create and explore.
Alexa Modugno is an accomplished classically trained violist, performance artist, fashionista, social media guru and writer who is passionate about NYC, culture, film and the arts.