A Flutist with a Flair for Fine Art

by Greg Waxberg

Like mother, like daughter!

Flower Painting in Progress.jpg

When she’s not playing her instrument, MET Orchestra Principal Flutist Chelsea Knox can be found pursuing her love of visual art, inspired by her mother, Ella Crampton Knox, who has been painting landscapes, seascapes, and gardens for decades. “For as long as I can remember,” Chelsea says, “we would paint and draw together, go scouting for subject matter, or visit museums. It never felt like we were going out of our way to do art projects—it was just part of day-to-day life.” During the summers of her high school and college years, Chelsea worked in her mother’s art gallery and picture framing shop in Bantam, CT.

As might be expected, Chelsea took art classes in high school, but, being rather structured, they didn’t quite satisfy her craving for artistic creativity. So, as a senior, she signed up for independent art study projects to continue working with the art teacher. “I had the freedom to choose what projects I wanted to pursue and what materials I wanted to work with,” she recalls.

A pen and ink drawing, Kimu1, from a larger series

A pen and ink drawing, Kimu1, from a larger series

That freedom continues today; she paints as time allows and continues to learn and experiment. “I take on commissions once in a while because it’s hard to stay on a guaranteed timeline. The nice thing about having painting as a hobby is that I have the freedom to go in any direction without being tied down to one specific style.” What is her style? Chelsea describes it as “tonality in painting relating to tonality in music, through color and texture.” Her art is often inspired by softer, slower-to-develop, less-rhythmic music, for example the Adagio for Strings or Parsifal.

Admittedly, she has a weakness: “I have a hard time finishing paintings. With music, whatever happens, happens. It might not be perfect, but that performance is your finished product. With painting, I want to keep working on each piece. It’s tough knowing when something is done.”

So far, Chelsea has primarily created pen and ink drawings of birds, and abstract paintings in oil and acrylic. Most recently, her newest experiment was a gorgeous, five-by-three foot, nearly 30-pound flower wall! These flowers are made from oil paint applied with cake-frosting tools—messy and time intensive, but worth it. “I had such a great time working on it, and I’m so happy with the finished product. My cake decorating skills have also improved!” The project’s starting point can be traced to an Armory show where Chelsea witnessed a technique used in paintings by Chinese conceptual artist Xu Zhen, a technique that she adapted as her own through trial and error. Appropriately, one article referred to Mr. Zhen’s work, Under Heaven, as resembling “frosting on a birthday cake.”

Now that you know about her visual artistry, keep an eye out for Chelsea . . . she may soon have her own paintings at an exhibition.

Greg Waxberg, a writer and magazine editor for The Pingry School, is also an award-winning freelance writer. You may contact him at GregOpera@aol.com.

Top view of Chelsea’s flower painting

Top view of Chelsea’s flower painting