Chella Man at Silver Art Projects | ArtDrunk


Artist, activist, and actor Chella Man on his artwork and making New York home

Fulfilling our mission to make art more accessible is rooted in showing and sharing how anyone and everyone can see, enjoy, and understand art. So when we were exploring ways to expand the voices that make up ArtDrunk beyond myself and Taylor, interviews and profiles were a natural evolution of the content we already create. Conducting and sharing these conversations has turned into a rewarding journey – learning about art, cities, and beloved institutions through the lens of our friends, colleagues, and people we admire. Hopefully as you read along – whether you’ve long been interested in art or are just getting into it – these profiles will show a new perspective on how art can play a part in your everyday life.

We’re honored to feature Chella Man as our inaugural interview. He fully embodies what this new series is about – new energy, fresh perspectives, local recommendations. Chella describes himself best in his own insta bio: “artist. curator. director. producer. author of Continuum. Deaf. trans. Chinese. Jewish”. While we caught up with him a few months ago when he was a Resident Artist at Silver Art Projects, you might also know him from his role in Titans or his TedTalk on his gender transition. Most recently, he curated a show at 1969 Gallery in Tribeca, on view through August 13, 2022. Let’s get into it.

Chella Man's Artwork at Silver Art Projects | ArtDrunk

GY: Let’s start with art. How did you develop your interest?

CM: Oh, man, I’ve been doing art since day one. I was drawn to this idea of creating something out of nothing. I would start to notice all the little pieces of junk around my house. And as a kid, I remember I would get a trash bag and go around my house, asking people if they wanted this thing or not. If they didn’t, it went into the junk trash bag. And at the end of the day, I would just compile all the things. This could mean like creating a robot from a tissue box with thimbles for the eyes. I still have that. Or it could be a time machine made from cardboard, inspired by Calvin and Hobbes.

GY: Looking around your studio, I love the line work in your paintings. And especially so with the drawings you post on your Instagram.

CM: Art started with me drawing a lot of animals actually. I used to want to be an animal rescuer or a paleontologist, actually. And I had this huge coffee table book of animals. All I wanted to do was recreate them in a way that was realistic, but also like, put my own spin on it. I guess, that’s maybe where my style started to develop – tweaking things a little bit to how I saw them. I wanted other people to see how I was perceiving them all. So yeah, ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to create.

GY: Similar to how signing is such a visual language, do you view art art as a way for you to communicate with people as well?

CM: Absolutely. Part of the reason I have relied heavily on art is because I lacked so much language growing up – trying to navigate my disability, my gender. No one told me that there was terminology like transgender or genderqueer, non-binary. Or no one was able to even explain disability justice to me and the different constructs of how to view disability as not necessarily a bad thing or that it’s a burden to have. 

So art was a way that I could explore all these different ideologies without needing the academic terminology to understand what was going on. It was also just like emotions, so much anger, so much pain and frustration that I would let out through throwing tantrums when I was a child. So I just painted. I drew. I compiled time machines because I wanted to be somewhere else.

Chella Man's Artwork at Silver Art Projects | ArtDrunk

GY: Why did you move to New York?

CM: I hate where I grew up. So as soon as I could, I worked very hard academically to get out of where I was living. I graduated as a junior in high school. I skipped senior year and came to Parsons. And I came to New York, specifically, because they had a junior acceptance program, which meant I could leave high school early. That’s why New York, essentially, but also because I knew from the internet that people were free – that there was more liberation.

GY: What makes it home?

CM: There’s something about the ambition here. Life is boring if it’s full of people who lack ambition and lack passion. The fact that so many people are drawn here with big dreams and the idea of living out their potential creates this energy. And that’s the kind of energy I want to be around. I haven’t been able to really find that in other places yet. And it’s in different forms in other cities, but I’ve never fully experienced that anywhere other than New York.

Chella Man's Artwork at Silver Art Projects | ArtDrunk

GY: Are there any places in New York where you particularly enjoy the sounds?

CM: I love silence. Actually, I have been surfing at Rockaway Beach, and I love – before I take out my implants – to go in the water. I love the sound of the ocean. But I also love not hearing the ocean and just looking at it in silence. I think, in a way, the vastness can be a little scary, but in a preferable way. It’s like a good fear.

GY: To cap it off, If family or friends were visiting you in New York, where would you take them?

CM: To my house! [laughs].We would just order takeout and talk. Sometimes, it’s not about the places, it’s about the conversation. But I mean, I’d be like, “where do you want to go? I’ll take you.”

1969 Gallery

39 White St
New York, NY 10013

Performance Space New York

150 1st Ave, 4th Fl
New York, NY 10009

P·P·O·W Gallery

392 Broadway
New York, NY 10013


11 W 53rd St
New York, NY 10019

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge
New York, NY 10038

Green-Wood Cemetery

500 25th St
Brooklyn, NY 11232

Rockaway Beach

Queens, NY 11694

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