Although a trained painter, Wells Chandler creates his fantastical visions using patchwork and crochet. He sews and crochets because that’s what seems most natural to him. Contrary to the idea of the isolated artist, he takes his work out of the studio to create alongside those he loves. All he has to do is get out his balls of wool, find a place to sit, and start creating in the midst of the collective, inside everyday life.
Initially taking inspiration from the kitsch of Norman Rockwell, the multi-coloured installations of Pepón Osorio, and the anti-cultural ideas associated with art brut, Wells Chandler has been careful to cultivate his own “artistic family”. More importantly still, as a trans artist he wants to connect intimately with the history of art, to be included, to find his place within the great scenes that knocked him head over heels, to form a community. To that end he takes models and injects them with his own language, stretches histories, extends the imagination.
The rest is about instinct and visions. Thus, emerge clearly the motifs of his utopia: sock-penises, banana-mouths, and extra-human bodies.
Wells Chandler is neither a creator nor a destroyer of worlds. In truth, he makes worlds emerge that could have existed, that do not yet exist, potential worlds, forever germinating, that are prevented from coming to pass.
His worlds are queer, making them radically joyous. They respond to the need to quit a “here and now” that hasn’t been built for us, and to seek an “elsewhere and after”  that’s welcoming. Each of his exhibitions offers exploratory breakthroughs into Queertopia, a place on the side, gentle and psychedelic.
There, our expectations and habits are shaken and turned upside-down, but then everything quickly becomes clear. For some of us, this abode of the strange is more familiar to us than the world it disturbs. Our dormant imaginations are rewritten there and flourish through the freest forms. Fantasies that once were shameful, naïve or disturbing are rehabilitated here. Naked, we explore our sexuality; ecstatic, we dance; we assume all the forms we desire, the most extravagant ones, the most unthinkable.
A grave-digger of undead worlds, Wells Chandler exhumes other worlds that have always been there. The pieces of Queertopia transform the space – in many ways an excluding space – of the gallery and are embodied as veritable queeratopias, a concept coined by researcher Alexandra Picheta. Queeratopia upends the heterotopia of Michel Foucault, and is a real place that, against the odds, manages to evade the social norms in force: queer replaces hetero, utopia gives way to atopy, an epidermic reaction to an allergen. “What if queer acted like an allergen, by shaking up the heterocispatriarchal organism?” . Thanks to Wells Chandler, from New York to Brussels to Paris, the queer utopian itch is spreading.
In Paris, if you set out from the gallery and walk a few hundred meters up to “rue de l’Université” before turning right into the neighbouring arrondissement, you’ll happen upon the Musée d’Orsay. Stuffed to the rafters with old masters and storehouse of astonishing works that amazed or exasperated the Salons of Paris, here is the supposed abode of our modern imaginations, of our cultural references.
In the western history of art, Edouard Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe [Luncheon on the Grass] represents a milestone, a rupture with the past. But sometimes it’s no longer so apparent why this might be the case. That’s the thing with a milestone: its resonance and thunder wipe out the details and nuances until eventually only the name remains. It deprives us of our ability to go back and question the nature and relevance of the milestone and the consequences of its continued persistence in our imaginations.
With tenderness and admiration, Wells Chandler goes back and questions the great reference points of the history of art and reminds us that sometimes they need to be stretched so as to accommodate everyone. He disturbs the references and mixes around the models, simply and joyfully: welcome to “Déjeuner sur mon cul [Luncheon on my Ass], presented by the Feminist Bird Club”. It’s a lunch where we’re invited to look at something new. Here, more naked young women bored at the centre of a conversation held among cis-het men wearing frock-coats. It’s an entire social world, all the same.
He zooms in and out, compelling us to look into the interstices of the painting. The different planes are juxtaposed, freed from hierarchies. Suddenly, new beings appear in the middle of the scene. They live there together, in a queer disorder. The great structuring narratives are not excluded from this story; they are summoned pell-mell, chaotically. They are out of whack, parasitised, heckled, and their symbols are placed at the service of other, more emancipatory, stories. Nout, the Egyptian goddess of the sky, mother of all celestial bodies, is no longer just the protective lover of her brother and of the earth of men. She is now the celestial cocoon of a swarm of ladybirds. The missing link, the obsession of the theory of evolution – supposed to throw light on the linearity of our origins, fill in the gaps in our genealogy – is also invited to lunch, but it is rendered odd, queer. Its antennae are many, as are its multi-coloured nipples and shining scars. This, precisely, is what our stories are missing in order to be complete: not that which logically could have been, but that which could be, oddly. And then a strawberry that’s looking to escape, a bird with a rainbow ass, and a snail with a shell like a black hole. This lunch is no longer an event, it’s just something else, a possibility.
 MUÑOZ, José Esteban, Cruiser l’utopie. L’après et ailleurs de l’advenir queer  (trad. Alice Wanbergue), Paris, Éditions Brooks, 2021.
 PICHETA, Alexandra, « Queeratopies : contaminer l’hétéronorme et renouer avec le vivant » in COHEN, J., LAGRANGE, S., TURBIAU, A. (dir.), Esthétiques du désordre. Vers une autre pensée de l’utopie, Paris, Le Cavalier bleu, 2022.
// Press Kit
// Wells Chandler
// Feminist Bird Club Presents: Luncheon on My Ass (05/13-07/22/2023 | Paris)
// See also: Cruising Utopia (04/20-07/15/2023 | Brussels)