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Windy Chien: 3 LIVES and Counting

“Women can do whatever the hell they want.”

“I feel like I’ve lived 3 lives,” Windy Chien explains as she describes her careers in the music industry, technology, and, now, in the art world. “I’m super omnivorous when it comes to life, and I consider it my duty to live as many lives as possible.”

From a 14-year stint running San Francisco’s legendary Aquarius Records to almost a decade of work pioneering Apple’s iTunes, Windy has moved into her “third life” as a fine artist. She naturally coalesces her inherent feminism and love of fringe culture into a stunning body of work that, at its core, focuses on the beauty of line.

Echoing the quiet minimalism of Agnes Martin, Windy utilizes pattern, repetition, and a muted palette to express her formally complex sculptures. Like a painter uses paint, Windy draws from the vernacular language of knots to guide her artmaking. Fascinated by their history and functionality, she seeks to move each knot to its fullest aesthetic potential in her process-oriented and materials-based practice.

Her work feels akin to that of Ruth Asawa’s. Both artists are rooted in a dedication to weaving and craft-based techniques – all of which are often considered “women’s work” and are widely disregarded in the art-historical canon. In the face of this unsubstantiated norm, each artist masterfully elevates her craft to the highest degree – surpassing gender biases and celebrating the beauty and historical richness inherent in tactile work.

Windy’s Circuit Board series is a perfect summation of her ability to bridge male-dominated spaces with female ones. Windy free-forms rope sculptures to loosely mirror circuit boards and transit maps. She pairs macramé – a historically feminine emblem of the 60s and 70s fringe movement – with technology, drawing parallels between the two notoriously freethinking groups. In doing so, she takes a typically male-dominated, logic-forward industry and, quite literally, weaves in the female narrative. The work becomes a subliminal symbol of the groundbreakers of the Silicon Valley and the history of West Coast counterculture as a whole.

Growing up in the 70s during the second wave of feminism, Windy was taught to be confidently and unapologetically herself. She has made space in not one but three typically male-dominated industries and comes out with a forceful body of work that represents that same notion. Her integrity is paramount, and she never bends for the status quo. More importantly, she empowers others to do the same. In her words, “women can do whatever the hell they want.”

Check out the Withitgirl Archive story about Windy & Aquarius Records


Windy Chien website

Windy Chien Instagram

Calder Anderson is an art and style contributor, enjoys photography, poetry & antique shopping.

Image Credit: Windy Chien in Red by Molly Decoudreaux; Artwork Images by Windy Chien: Windy Chien with Spinal Columns by Vero Kherian; Windy Chien in her studio and knot work by Windy Chien; Circuit Board, 2019 by Windy Chien; Knot images by Windy Chien

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