What rhymes with “yowza”? Chiaozza! Monstruosus worked with Adam Frezza and Terri Chiao, two artists who form Chiaozza, a New York-based artistic practice that produces works across different media such as painting, sculpture, installation, collage, and photography. We sat down with the artists to discuss the inspiration for our recent collaboration, their works’ animate character, and their favorite plants.


How did you approach this collaboration with Monstruosus?

Last winter, we spent several months at our friends' apple orchard in Vermont. We were struck by the stark forms of the bare, grafted apple trees against the white snow, and we began a series of studies that we later called "Gemels." In this series, we explore simplified plant forms conjoined together, breaking down the shapes of trees into segments of cylinders, arcs, tubes, cones, and spheres. When Monstruosus approached us for this collaboration, these shape studies came to mind as a perfect pairing with the geometric forms of the ceramic planters.


Knowing that they would be living for a time being in the Mexican desert, did you create them with this landscape in mind?

We chose to work with bold colors and forms that would contrast and complement the dusty tones of the textured desert landscape. At times, the desert can feel other-worldly and surreal, and it was our intention for the sculptures to build on this idea, perhaps suggesting an environment not yet known.


Some of Chiaozza's works have a biomorphic quality to them. One often wonders if they're living. How do you perceive them?

We see our works as having "character." Sometimes they are homages to historical, living, or non-living figures. Sometimes the characters emerge as the forms emerge, such as with our "Lump Nubbin" paper pulp sculptures. We are very much inspired by natural forms that elude expectation, such as coral, cacti, and curious rock formations. Connecting to a sense of wonder is something we value deeply, and we try to carry that feeling with us throughout the sculptural process.


Do you see them as characters with distinct personalities?

Some are slow, some are fast, some are sad, some are exuberant, some are nurturing, eager, wise, slinking...every sculpture has a distinct personality.


What is your approach to color? How do you choose the colors for your different sculptures?

Form usually comes before color in our process. Once the form has been set, we begin to consider color. We often follow our instincts from one color to the next. In this set of sculptures, we used bold and primary colors mixed with some dustier and fluorescent tones to create a set of bright and lively plant-inspired forms for the Monstruosus planters.


What are some of Chiaozza's favorite plants or trees?

Some of our favorite trees are redwoods, willows, Japanese cedars, magnolias, banyans, and any tree that arches over and creates a feeling of shelter underneath or within. Lately our 3-year-old daughter, Tove has been interested in "helicopters" from Sycamore trees. We also love visiting overgrown greenhouses and getting lost in the wild worlds of succulents and cacti.


Do you own any plants yourself? If so, what and how for how long? What types of plants do you gravitate towards?

We have many plants in our home. Some have been with us for over ten years. Hardy and hearty plants do well in our sunny apartment – mostly cacti, succulents, and tall leafy plants. We like plants with unusual forms that we can build relationships with over time.

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