Auburn Artist Chris Foster Finds Her Life's Joy
● By Style
After working as an international flight attendant for 23 years, it was an astounding twist of fate that led Chris Foster to her life as a painter. Having studied calligraphy to help ease her constant jet lag, the art form ultimately helped her to pick up a paintbrush. “My art gives me a way to communicate and learn something new,” says Foster. “And in the process, I hope to communicate an idea or emotion to the viewer. My joy in life is painting.” You can view Foster’s work at the Auburn Old Town Gallery.
HLB: What led to your transition from flight attendant to artist?
CF: The morning of my last working flight, I mailed my retirement papers to my employer. Little did I know that the aircraft would burst into flames on takeoff! While evacuating over 280 passengers from a burning aircraft, I thought of survival and what the rest of my life would be like. I was enthralled by the beautiful reflections on the movie screen from the fire flames on the airplane wings. “It’s like a sunset,” I thought. After many months of post-traumatic stress therapy, I discovered that I’d been an artist all my life. Everyone should be so fortunate to be given the permission to be who he or she is.
HLB: What about calligraphy enticed you?
CF: One has to be centered and focused to do calligraphy—a steady hand and a tremendous amount of concentration are necessary. It’s through calligraphy that I allowed myself to have the confidence to paint.
HLB: You aren’t doing lettering as often—why’s that?
CF: I’m [currently] drawn to abstract expressionism. A good abstract can be hung in any direction, therefore lettering is out of place (unless you like to read upside down or sideways). As I paint, I attempt to communicate emotion with colors and shapes. I work intuitively; as I work the painting tells me (if I listen carefully) what to do next. Artists know there is a “brain critic” that needs to be silenced during this process.
HLB: What do your themes of courage, journeys and listening represent?
CF: My themes are a result of my life stories and my persistent pursuit of truths. I’ve had some unusual events occur in my life—the Nellie Granger Award was bestowed on me for bravery, which is something I never would have imagined. Every painting takes courage.
HLB: Why are you drawn to warm, vibrant colors?
CF: In my mind, reds and yellows represent freedom, summer vacation and a celebratory dance. When I work in blues and greens, it’s because I have committed to a series to stretch myself. My life is more of a red-yellow palette; maybe it was the sunset I saw in the fire flames.
HLB: Any words of wisdom for young artists?
CF: Please know, young ones, that what we do matters tremendously. We are the catalyst for change in the world. We are the “way showers.” We show possibilities not imagined before. Do not ever forget this.