Crystal Latimer was born in Hollywood, CA but grew up outside of Pittsburgh, PA. In 2010, Crystal completed her BFA Slippery Rock University. She then went on to receive an MA and MFA from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2013 and 2016, respectively.

Crystal's work has been shown extensively in both solo and group exhibitions, including at Collect Art Fair (Somerset House, London), Art Miami (Basel Art Week, Art Miami), Paradigm Gallery, Visions West Gallery (Colorado, Montana) Pittsburgh International Airport, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Chautauqua Institution, George Washington University among others. Internationally, she has also exhibited at the London Art Fair, La Galleria at Pall Mall, London, and was shortlisted for the Young Masters Art Prize with Cynthia Corbett Gallery. Crystal was an artist in residence at the Joaquin Chaverri Fabrica de Carretas in Sarchi, Costa Rica in 2014. Crystal's work has been featured in The Western Home Journal, Create!, Pikchur, Art Maze, Ruminate, and Fresh Paint Magazines.

Her work is included in public and private collections nationally and internationally; public collections including those of Indiana State University of Pennsylvania, PNC Corporate, the Benter Foundation, and Wyndham Tryp Hotel.

Crystal is represented by Paradigm Gallery (Philadelphia PA), Visions West Contemporary (Denver CO | Livingston, Bozeman MT), Cynthia Corbett Gallery (London UK).

We chat with the artist about her work and recent exhibition at Paradigm Gallery.

Can you tell us about your journey as an artist? What were the biggest challenges to building your art career?

Sure! I was born in North Hollywood, CA, but raised and educated in Western Pennsylvania. As a child, I never had much exposure to art but liked to doodle as much as any other kid and always found myself fulfilling the art aspect of group projects. I attended college orientation thinking that I would be pursuing optometry, but when they announced “Animation,” I jumped up and told my parents we were going to go with that group instead. I bounced around art majors until finally landing on a Studio Art BFA, shortly followed by an MA and MFA in Painting. I was educated in the 2010s, and I remember having a lingering doubt that I wasn’t doing it right since I wasn’t in a big city – or the city, NYC. Simultaneously, I saw how the world was evolving, so I stayed put. I have a true “one-step-after-another” story, and every step is conquering a new version of the same hurdle – me. I’m always the biggest challenge, my beliefs and doubts picked up from who knows where. Every time I let go of one of those self-hurdles, it's been reflected in an up-leveling of my work. Releasing notions of where I thought an artist needed to live allowed me to attend programs I felt nurtured in as a young artist. Letting go of what I believed successful art looked like led to my current series, KEEPSAKES. Adapting to life with my studio schedule, always pushing and extending myself a bit further, saying yes to the right opportunities has brought all the rest. Incrementally.

Your recent exhibition at Paradigm Gallery, "FINE HOUSE," seems to delve into the concept of power and its symbols. Could you elaborate on the symbols of power that you explore in your artwork and how they resonate with viewers?

Power is a recurring concept in all of my work. However, I focus on power that is tied to a sense of self; the internal rather than external, and my compositions are meant to guide the audience toward those themes. For example, I’m borrowing from the aesthetics of a tapestry, historically used to convey narrative. However, the powerful iconography that I work with are singular, isolated by design and meant to be read as symbols. The cowgirls are almost always forward-facing, confronting the audience with their gaze and activating the viewer’s role in the narrative. The power dynamics then are shifted toward the viewer, and it’s my hope that the power observed in the piece is then translated into a feeling of the viewer’s own strength.

The exhibition incorporates tapestry paintings depicting moments of power, such as bears in battle. What led you to choose these specific subjects, and what emotions or messages do you hope to convey through them?

The subject matter that I choose is a mix of intuitive and literary. Some of the subject matter has been inspired by literature, and the untamed, wild nature of the animals depicted in those stories. These animals represent a dormant aspect of ourselves, waiting to be awakened and reclaimed. Some of the subject matter is chosen for what they represent metaphorically. For example, the owl is a symbol of wisdom, inner guidance, and intuition. The buffalo represents abundance, being grounded and rooted. Bears represent trust. If I use a bear that is depicted in a fierce nature, I find it interesting to combine the visual vocabulary; perhaps translating to being fiercely trusting with yourself. It’s all very poetic.

The theme of gender connotations and "Wild West" iconography plays a significant role in your work. How do you address the duality of complementary forces and the balance between traditionally masculine traits and feminine understanding in your paintings?

Gender connotations are perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of my work, and one that I am always striving to achieve in perfect harmony. It extends to every aspect of my practice: the palette, the subject matter, the rendering of a line. I like to think of it as male and female energy. Traditional gender may only really extend to the reclaiming of the cowgirl to female. For the metaphor of the cowgirl, and by extension “the Wild West,” is much greater than that. It’s about conquering your own personal Wild West, that unclaimed territory of your own internal landscape. The daring of it. It’s about becoming whole. Harmonizing the male energy (action-oriented, stable, predictable, structure, grounding) and female energy (nurture, trust, intuition, creativity, light) in ourselves. I break down every element in my work and think of the energy it's holding and what the painting needs for balance.

"FINE HOUSE" represents an expansion of your artistic practice into home furnishings and interior design. What inspired this transition, and how do you feel this new dimension adds to the overall message and impact of your artwork?

As an artist, I’m always thinking about new ways to evolve my work. Almost immediately after the onset of KEEPSAKES, I realized how easily the visual language could translate to other aspects of home design, but was stumped on the “how.” I’m very lucky that Paradigm Gallery also saw potential for collaboration and helped bring these possibilities to fruition. Art is meant to live in many forms. I believe surrounding ourselves with beauty and inspiration is a powerful, invisible force. KEEPSAKES are visual affirmations of strength; translating this iconography to other forms of aesthetic design helps for the message to evolve and inspire.

Can you provide some insights into your creative process? How do you approach storytelling and the selection of symbols and motifs for each piece? How does this process differ when working on canvas versus designing interior elements?

The process starts through discovering vintage photographs of cowgirls, architectural designs, wildlife photos, and a digital catalog of personal renderings. I then take the research to my iPad and begin weaving it all together, making them my own. I think about the iconography, metaphors, and narrative starting to take shape. It’s a lot of trial and error, especially when it comes to the palette. You might not see it, but a lot of creativity and intuition is poured into the design stage. Every texture and color is pre-planned; in the studio, I’m executing. I would say creating home decor has its similarities. I use the same iconography that is found in my work. However, it’s an editing process; subtraction, rather than the “more is more” approach of my KEEPSAKES. My goal is to deliver a similar bold message but use fewer “words” in the process.

What's coming up next for you?

Currently, I’m on a beautiful break from the studio. An exhale. Next week I’ll start designing work for the next half of my year, and I’ll likely return to the studio in two weeks. I’ll be creating work for Art Miami in December and a group exhibition in Denver, Colorado, at the beginning of January 2024.