In-Sync with… Javier Chavira (interview)


This post continues my series “In-Sync with…” aimed to get a closer look at contemporary artists and art professionals from Chicago and abroad. Read it, enjoy it, share it, and get in-sync with artist Javier Chavira.

Javier and I go back to around the year 1990 when we met at Joliet Junior College.  It has been my pleasure over the years to consider him a trusted and respected friend. As an artist, I have always admired his patience, simplicity and dedication to the art making process.  We have shared studio many times and I have seen him work hour after hour on a single line, shape or small section of the work until it is done to his high standards.  It is that attention to detail, focus and love for the craft that makes Javier an incredible and talented artist.  Enjoy this great interview…

Javier Chavira, Pedro Palacios and Sergio Gomez


Sergio: Where did you go to school (college/university) and what degree did you receive?

Javier: The art bug bit me during my senior year in high school and it was then when I realized I had a knack for creative things like drawing. I really never took it serious at this point so after high school I spent year or so working retail and at several fast food places. I quickly realized that I needed to do something else with my life. Because I left high school so unprepared for college and against my father’s wishes I enrolled at Joliet Junior College where I spent several years as an “art nomad” without a practical plan but happy and immersed completely with art. After JJC, and with “dream art school” heartbreak, I stumbled upon hidden gem of a school called Governors State University where I quickly settled in and began absorbing all that their art program had to offer. I ended up earning a BA and an MA in Art from GSU and I then decided to continue my education. I applied to several state schools but decided NIU was the place for me. I earned a MFA in 2002. Throughout this period I also received some important “schooling” by working with the public art collective The Friends of Community Public Art in Joliet, IL where I not only learned how to paint on a massive scale in the form of public murals but also learned how art can have a positive impact on the general public and especially with young folks.

Reflecting back on my higher education journey, the thing that stands out to me is that I had well-rounded instruction. My professors gave me the freedom to express myself completely but I also received superb guidance technically and conceptually. I was always open to what they had to say, even if I did not agree with it, because I knew it was important to them.

Sergio: What is your website?

Installation at From Motion to Stillness exhibition, Zhou B Art Center


Sergio: What are you working on and what inspires you right now?

Javier: Right now I just completed some works on paper for the 2nd Art Biennale in Izmir, Turkey and I am also producing more work for upcoming solo shows in August and September. Everything inspires me right now. I have always been the type of person that makes many things some useful and some not. I am the type of person that has no qualms about straddling the line between realism and abstraction. I have a deep appreciation and respect for both and it is my intention to continue to work in both worlds. If I had to narrow it down to one source of inspiration lately, I would have to say modernism, specifically in art, design and architecture. I am completely infatuated with the idea of getting down to the very essence of things, to simplify, to edit, to the concept of “art for art sake” and “less is more,” to art that espouses process, to formalist art. I am intrigued with the pure color of Gauguin and Matisse, the essence of form from Brancusi and Moore the virtuosity and diversity of Picasso and Noguchi. Because I agree with what John D. Graham believed when he said that “artists create because it is a joy to create,” I am inspired by the pure expression of my four year old daughter’s creative exploration where there is no right or wrong. The key for creating work that is significant, at least to me, is that the process has to be about exploration and discovery and this does not happen if its not playful and honest. I love Miró. This love for the modern does not in any way casts aside my affection towards realism. As a matter a fact, it informs it. It keeps it away from being all about technique. I am intrigued with realist work that is honest, direct and gets to the essence of what it needs to communicate without too much noise distracting its purpose. This is what I intend to do with the figurative works I have created thus far. Whether it is working or not that is another question. But that is what keeps me going.

Sergio: Describe your creative process:

Javier: My creative process is kind of random. I usually work on several things at a time. For instance I might have a figurative painting going while I am working on hard edge formalist works or process pieces. I thrive on the duality of both forms of expression. Whether I have a show lined up or not I am constantly producing. I need to do it. It really is like breathing.

Sergio: How do you deal with social media?

Javier: As far as social media, I am pretty good about disconnecting and not letting it take over too much of my time. Perhaps I need to use it in a way that helps my career? I am not sure. I do use it to keep connected and to announce shows but I kind of see it as mostly entertainment. I would like to leave it to my dealer, this means you Sergio, to figure out a way to make it work for me. I would like to focus on my work instead : )

Bird of Paradise
oil & acrylic on panel
24 x 48 inches

Sergio: What is your biggest challenge as an artist?

Javier: Finding time to get work done. Slowly, I am learning to manage my time more effectively. As a full-time professor, family man and visual artist I have learned to schedule just about everything in my life. There are days dedicated to my university completely, days dedicated to my work completely and days where family is 1st. This really does allow me to immerse myself completely in what ever I do.

Sergio: What is next for you?

Javier: To keep pluggin’ away. This August a solo show at Union Street Gallery, Chicago Heights and a solo show at 33 Contemporary. I hope to have a strong show with works that I am deeply pleased with.


Sergio: What is the Izmir Biennale?

Javier: From my understanding the Biennale was created by the artist and gallery director Seba Uğurtan in 2011. The art fair will host approximately 450 artists from all over the region and the world. I learned about this fair from Dennis McCann, an expat artist and former classmate, who initially contacted me about exhibiting there but was then invited because of my capacity as a university professor to serve as one of several jurors for the fair and to exhibit some of my work as well. I am excited with the opportunity of not only sharing my work but also meeting other artists from this region.


Sergio: What is your opinion of contemporary art fairs?

Javier: Since I have not participated in any this scale until now, I think they are great opportunities not only for artists but also for the public. I think they are a great way for the artist to connect with possible patrons/collectors but in also for the art world to connect with the non-art world. I sometimes feel the “art world” exists in a bubble and rarely does it connect with the masses and when it does it is because of some sensational exercise that involves either urine or poop.

Sergio: Do you think gallery representation is as important today as it has been in the past?

Javier: I think gallery representation is crucial. At least for me, I need a gallery to go to bat for me. Let me devote what little time I have to serious inquiry with my work. As artists we depend on the gallery to devote itself completely to the artists it represents so that both parties can benefit not only in a monetary way but also by leading the way in regards to the progression of artistic ideas.

graphite & mixed media on paper
19 x 19 inches


I love art and design documentaries, recent memorable ones include, Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Schulman, Helvetica, Waste Land by Vic Muniz, Eames: The Architect and the Painter, Herb and Dorothy, The Art of the Steal, Why beauty Matters and The Mona Lisa Curse.

Art museums… All of them. Let us have an open mind; they all have important things to offer.

Favorite Contemporary artists including architects and designers… Martin Puryear, Josiah Mcelheny, Marylin Minter, Susan Hauptman, Walton Ford, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Tadao Ando, Zaha Hadid, Marc Newson, Santiago Calatrava, among others.

Place to be inspired by… Somewhere out in nature including our garden.

One sentence advice for an art student… Work your ass off because someone else is working his or her ass off more than you.

Chicago cafe/restaurant… La Casa de Samuel in Pilsen or anywhere where they have a lady whose sole job is to make fresh tortillas just for you.

Maria Sabina: I am a Woman of Light
oil & acrylic on panel with glass rhinestones
6 x8 feet
Permanent collection of the National Museum of Mexican Art


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