An Interview with Artist Kelcy Timmons Chan
Kelcy Timmons Chan is a Cantonese Canadian American queer artist based in Toronto. Born in Hong Kong and raised in Vancouver, Kelcy is second generation Asian American born from immigrant parents. Since graduating from the University of Toronto as a Visual Studies Specialist, they have worked in Toronto as a Contemporary Pop Artist, Mural Artist, Live Painter and Designer. Fife House recently connected with Kelcy to learn more about them.
Between June 23 to August 31, 2023, Kelcy is accepting custom commissions for their signature Egg paintings in queer flag colours. With every commission they receive, they are donating 15% of every sale to Fife House. Find more details on their Instagram page (@mixt.paints) or by emailing them at email@example.com.
Hi Kelcy. Can you tell us about yourself and your background/journey as an artist?
I have loved art since I was a child and have always been adamant about being involved in creative industries. Growing up I was raised in a success-oriented household and finding financial independence was drilled into me at a young age. I was interested in fashion and graphic design and those were the fields I pursued until university. Through my studies in visual art, I discovered that I enjoyed painting and graphic design, and when I graduated I took a design job at a non-profit organization in Toronto. Although it was a stable position, the work did not fulfill my creativity.
In 2019, a friend helped me land a job painting a mural on College Street for an independent restaurant called Hacienda las Americas; my career drastically changed that summer into a visual art focused career. I began doing commissions and pursuing painting and illustration more seriously. When COVID hit, my career progressed into something new. I began considering how my perspective can be an asset to our world and began developing my conceptual practice.
Where do you draw the inspiration for your art?
In my work I explore themes on intersectionality, duality and belonging through the consideration of my experience as a biracial, queer, small business owner. Through my pieces I want to create space for mixed people, marginalized folks, and immigrants to heal and to feel represented in my art, specifically those who have intersectionality.
I want to highlight in my pieces that each person holds a unique perspective, yet also holds overlapped experiences with many people around them. I want to show how these similarities and idiosyncrasies create cultural bonds and division, that ignite many forms of togetherness and isolation. I highlight these experiences in unassuming simplistic forms, and by doing so, I emulate how my appearance does not always reflect the complexity of my perspective.
For this reason, I paint eggs.
Growing up, I was labeled as whitewashed, wasian, and given names like “halfie” and “egg” because people around me considered me as only a white person. They felt my “yellowness” was only on the inside. In Asian spaces, I was often considered not Asian enough to be one of them and it left me in a constant displaced state of where I belonged and what my culture is.
My relationship to sexuality and gender was another area where I felt a part of “the in between” as a pansexual, gender fluid person. Painting eggs with queer flag colours, and sharing my experiences with other intersectionalized folks has allowed me to speak on these experiences of intersectionality and create a place of belonging and healing in my work. My eggs are a reminder to myself and to everyone that I am fully all of the labels I belong to.
What advice do you have for inspiring artists?
It sounds incredibly corny to say, but never give up, and don’t settle. I have worked for many years as an artist and failure is a part of the gig. Being able to reroute your head space to adapt to new challenges and rejection will be an asset to you for the rest of your life. People respect tenacity and authenticity; by channeling who I was into my art, I found my way to the beginnings of a growing successful career. Never forget to continue making and to continue growing.
Why have you decided to support Fife House?
I first learned about Fife House when I attended a Trixie and Katya show back in 2019. I bought a fan that was in support of Fife House and at that point learned about the work they do. As a young queer person, I live in the luxury of being, for the most part, comfortably out and proud as who I am. For many of my queer elders, this was not the case just a few decades ago. This pride I wanted to specifically give back to queers that helped begin building a society that allows me to feel comfortable today. While I was looking into organizations to support this Pride, I thought of Fife House. Although Fife House supports all ages of individuals with HIV and AIDS to secure affordable housing, I chose Fife House in attempt to support some of my queer elders.
Photo credits: (image 1) Concord Adex, (image 2 & 3) Benjamin Lappalainen @blapphoto, (image 4) Calvin Campos @calcamposmedia