Painting a form of therapy for Bermudian artist in Paris
Chloe Smith can now look back on the tough periods in her life and be grateful that they fuelled her creativity.
The 24-year-old is making her way as an artist in Paris. She raps, she paints; in the days before Covid-19 she held exhibits where people could see what she had created in person.
“I’ve written poetry since I was nine, ten years old. It was a form of therapy for me because it wasn’t easy, my childhood. And so my escape was always through painting or sculpting or writing down poems.”
Born in Bermuda to Ramadhin and Nathalie Smith she struggled at Bermuda High School. On the frequent trips the family made to her mother’s home of Brittany, in the north of France, she was thrilled to be able to focus on her art, something that had engaged her since about the age of three.
“In the part of France where we have a house it’s very isolated,” she said. “There’s nothing but fields and farms around us. I spent a lot of my time, when we would go there, on the computer. I remember going on YouTube and, I can’t remember how I came across it, but it was a video of somebody making miniature sculptures of food.”
She began practising.
“I liked how small they were. Even in my art I’m very finicky when it comes to detail and precision. I’m a perfectionist in that way so it was also interesting for me to do something on a small scale.”
Although it was something she excelled at, it was her painting that stuck.
“If I were to sculpt something today it wouldn’t be miniature food. It would be nude women or really weird kind of deformed faces,” said Chloe, whose recent paintings reflect that style.
In her teens her parents separated and she went with her mother to France for a year before relocating to England at 15. After six months she returned to Bermuda, where she was kicked out of school.
Hopes were high for an art college in Aix-en-Provence willing to accept students without a high school diploma but ultimately, the language barrier was too great and the classes of limited appeal.
“I was lucky enough to be accepted and I went to school there for about two years and ended up stopping. It was fairly difficult for me because [although] I’m bilingual I only learned how to read and write French at school, at BHS.
“When I was a baby we spoke English and a mix of French. I was raised around my French family where we never needed to write or read and so it was understandably hard for me to learn in French.
“I also realised that even if by some miracle I was able to get my diploma I wouldn’t be enjoying what I was doing. I was basically forced to do any type of art behind a computer screen and ever since I was a child I’ve always used my hands to create.”
Since moving to Paris with her boyfriend last September, music has been her real focus.
“My focus is to try to make it in music or my art but with the pandemic and lack of areas to exhibit my stuff I’ve been leaning more towards and focusing more towards my music,” said Chloe, who raps as Lou-C.
“I still paint every day. I’m still creating because it’s a genuine passion of mine but since Covid it’s been very hard.”
A bit of luck has helped her move forward but the confidence she gained from past successes has also given a boost. In Aix-en-Provence, she carved a niche for herself as an artist and held a solo show there. Another highlight was an exhibit at The May Fair, a high-end hotel in London, England. She is also proud of the leading role she played in The Last I Heard Your Voice, a short by her friend Marq Rodriguez that screened as part of the Bermuda International Film Festival in 2015.
“The one thing that assured me was the fact that I was able – completely on my own – to set up, organise and take care of a complete exhibition myself despite the difficulty, the lack of faith I could have had in myself. Especially as an artist, it’s not very easy to make a living but that was kind of my motivation. It was kind of like a sign: you can do something; you can make something of this.
“Because it’s difficult I’ve tried to branch off. There’s so many things I could do [as an artist but] I’m trying to figure out what to focus on to make a steady income.”
Throughout the years she has always been grateful she had family she could rely upon.
“My father has always helped me and supported me immensely and is partly the reason I could’ve accomplished as much as I have.
“Being interracial and bilingual from two completely different backgrounds, Bretonne and Bermudian, both sides of my family surprisingly have many artists in them.”
Her maternal grandmother was “a very talented oil painter”; Michael Doyling Smith, her great uncle on her father’s side, “is a very talented and accomplished illustrator and sketcher who is still in Bermuda and has been an inspiration to me ever since he showed me his work when I was a child”.
Her younger twin sisters are also creative. Anya is a fashion designer; Kelsy is “a very accomplished digital artist”.
Chloe’s advice to any of Bermuda’s budding artists is to reach out to any and everyone as she does on her website, on Facebook and Instagram. She has a separate account on Instagram for her music, which can also be heard on SoundCloud and all other streaming platforms.
“Opportunity can be slim in Bermuda. If you don’t fit a certain criteria it’s very hard. We’re lucky enough to be in a time where technology can connect us anywhere in the world and my advice would be to look and focus more on that.”
Help can easily be found on social media if you know “who to talk to and to reach out to” and if you are willing to help them in turn.
“It’s good to know how to navigate that sort of mentality in the real world whether or not you leave Bermuda. I feel like it’s very smart to use technology to your advantage. And if you don’t leave Bermuda … be consistent with your material, with your craft, with what you create. Try and be as consistent as you can so you can gain exposure elsewhere without leaving the island.”