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Chloé Bernard – Life is magic

From creating G.I. Joe helmets out of nuts to jumping into pictures with Mary Poppins, a love for Bob Ross to colorful surrealistic space drawings and black and grey tattoos, and from skating street in Nice to skating backyard bowls in Colorado – Chloé Bernard likes to express herself in many ways. With her studio in Marseille and her skateboard aas a travel companion, she has everything she needs to do that, and maybe some sunsets and Tarantino movies for inspiration.

Let’s start with Marseille. Why did you come here?

I passed an exam to go to the art school, moved here, started to skate the bowl, and fell in love with it.

What do you like about the city?

I love Marseille because it’s sunny, people are singing when they talk, and it’s not an expensive town. You can just enjoy life, see the sea, walk in the Calanques, and have fun with people. It’s like a big playground for adults.

And how did you get into art?

I don’t know whether my parents told me or I remember it, but when I was four years old, instead of playing with other kids, I was trying to create a little G.I. Joe helmet with nuts – being lost in my own world. I think when you need to create, it can be with anything.

Were you always interested in drawing when you were young?

For sure. Ever since I was super small, I loved to draw. I’m not good at it. I wasn’t better than anyone else, but I wanted to do it more than anything else. When I was a teenager and I was sad, I needed to draw to express many things. That’s how I realized I needed to do it.

How did you get to where you are today?

Basically, I went to the art school in Marseille. Then they kicked me out after four years. [laughs] I was skating a lot and working as a waitress, so I had a lot of things to do. Then I went to a resort to snowboard because that’s my first love, and then I decided to create a collective with two other girls called les suzzies. We made skate videos and a lot of exhibitions with skateboards. That’s how I started to do that for a living. I started to paint murals with Lola [La Sioux], one of the two girls.

"It’s important for me to paint or draw or skate because that’s how I express things I can’t say."

What was it like when you did your first mural?

She introduced me to murals cause she painted with spray cans. I still paint with acrylic and brushes, even for the murals. I think it would be complicated for anyone to suddenly go big, but she’s the one that brought me to La Friche back in the day. It was different than now. You could paint anywhere in the whole building. We did two characters. She just told me, “Go for it.” It was super exciting.

What is La Friche?

It’s a former tobacco factory, now a work space for 70 on-site organizations including 400 artists. I live right around the corner. There’s a skatepark, BUD Skateshop, and a skate school – Board Spirit Marseille. There are also a lot of exhibitions, murals everywhere, and independent radio stations. There’s so much happening it’s a really interesting place and it’s also open to anyone from the neighborhood, which is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Marseille. So the kids come to play soccer, basketball, skate, etc. Right in front of La Friche is a former convent where I have my studio.

What’s the studio like?

Three years ago, I was dreaming about tattooing, so I realized I had to try. I changed studios and moved to this one, which is an amazing place with hundreds of people and a big garden with chickens. Because I was traveling a lot, I couldn’t go to a tattoo parlor and ask to be an apprentice. So in this studio, which I’m sharing with three other people, I decided to set up a tattoo corner. Now I tattoo there, I paint, and I create little stories.

What’s the big difference between your paintings and your tattoos?

My paintings are colorful, my tattoos are only black and grey. Actually, it’s interesting because it really shows that I’m like anyone else, I guess. We have a really dark side and a really colorful side. The tattoos are more like pinup, zombie, sexy and the paintings are really cosmic, surrealist.

The paintings are really colorful.

Yeah, I love colors. It makes you happy. I love skies, just sunsets and sunrises, and I guess I’ve tried to do that all my life, to paint them, and I haven’t reached that yet. I try to do it like Bob Ross most of the time. [laughs]

Did you watch Bob Ross when you were young?

No, no, no. The first time I saw it was when an American guy showed it to me, because we have no idea about Bob Ross here in France. I saw his TV show like three years ago and it blew my mind. I think he was in the Army and when he left, he said, “I will never yell again.” He’s a real Jedi.

What feeling do you get when you’re doing art?

It’s important for me to paint, draw, or skate because that’s how I express things I can’t say. I think feelings and emotions are really abstract things. For me, they appear in different shapes and colors. If I’m sad or something’s wrong, I need to express it. It’s a real catharsis. I sit down and have time with myself then. I think drawing or painting or whatever you do for a long time is like meditation because you do movements that you’ve known for a while. Then your brain is starting to go into another mood and you start to think about other stuff. I think it’s a matter of living for me to do that.

"For a while, people thought I could only draw pussies and dicks, which wasn’t the case at all. I also do flowers."

What are your inspirations?

We’re full of influences. We’re not born with our mind already set. I guess I’ve been really influenced by… when I started to skate, the aesthetics of skate brands in the ‘90s or 2000s, the Piss Drunx, all those subcultures with neon colors and skulls, the graphics, like the Blind graphics, they made you ask questions. I’ve also been influenced by a lot of comic books and cartoons, Disney for sure, Mary Poppins at first. She jumped into a fucking drawing. That’s my ultimate goal. Artists, like Skinner from Oakland, who is an amazing drawer, he designed a board for Blood Wizard. A lot of artists like that inspired me. I’m not trying to do what they do, but they’re probably a big influence. Just the colors and the monsters. I love comic books like Liberator, which inspired the Terminator movies. Even outside of books, stuff like Tarantino movies. Bob Ross for sure! [laughs]

Can you describe the role of sex in your art?

I don’t paint men actually. I realized I only paint women. I’m more inspired by them. A lot of naked, sexy women. Probably because I think women are really powerful. The sensuality, for example, when Salma Hayek in From Dusk till Dawnis doing the lap dance on the table and everyone is hypnotized and then she’s a vampire and she’s gonna kill everyone – that’s kind of what I think. Sensuality is a big weapon. Men lose everything with that. I’m so impressed by women. It took me a while to accept my own femininity. I was a tomboy, I wanted to be a boy, and I think I’m still dealing with my femininity. So for sure, for me, it was a way to approach sensuality, feminine bodies, and try to make it myself. Also, we women suffer a lot with stereotypes about us. We basically hear all that bullshit since we’re born, so it’s a way of opposing that, too. Making people face reality. Also I love to… I think we can laugh about everything and I like to put people in weird places, for sure.

Do you ever have any controversy surrounding your artwork?

I think, for a while, people thought I could only draw pussies and dicks, [laughs]which wasn’t the case at all. I also do flowers. It’s funny, and I realized because one day you drew a naked body, everyone is thinking it’s super obscene. It’s quite funny actually. I realized you can almost do politics through drawings. You can decide to point at everything with your finger or put yourself in a spot, you’re saying something to the world.

What can you tell me about the art scene in Marseille?

There are a lot of graffiti artists in Marseille. The walls in the streets are all painted and it makes it really nice to look at. Graffiti, murals, street art, it’s a big community, like skateboarding.

What about the skate scene? Cause you told me that you grew up in Nice and that you didn’t feel accepted there as a woman.

Skateboarding wasn’t a fashion thing at that point, especially not for women, and Nice is not as open minded as Marseille for many reasons. For sure, I felt a bit odd in the streets there sometimes. You can get a ticket just for skating monuments. When I first came to Marseille, I had many people saying bullshit about this town, that it was dangerous and blah blah blah, but everyone’s super nice and the skate scene, I’d never seen anything like that before. I thought, “It’s the best skate scene ever.” The nicest family I ever met, the biggest skate scene in France. It was amazing, I couldn’t believe it. I felt like I was in California or something. People are super nice. You can go to the bowl with no food or anything and you can hang out with people and they feed you. It happened to us two days ago. [laughs]

Chloe Bernard Layback hurricane Photo: Clement Chouleur La Caverne DIY Marseille

Layback Hurricane

What do you think about the women’s scene in skateboarding at the moment and how have you seen it evolve?

It obviously improved so much, it’s insane. The level of skating is now amazing. There have always been skater girls, but they were not put in the spotlight like today. Because of the social networks, the younger girls are not scared to go skating anymore, because now it’s cool. Which is a bit weird, right? We liked it as a subculture, punk, destroy, but it’s no longer that way.

Do you feel like you’re a role model to some girls?

I don’t think so, but I do have a lot of young girls that come to me and tell me really nice things. For me, Lisa Jacob was a role model and another girl from Nice. They were the only girls I’d seen skating when I was 14 years old. I guess I might have been that, too, because you’ve seen a girl skating and you were like, “Wow!” and it was a model for you. I hope doing what I like in my life can inspire other girls thinking they can do it, too.

"I want to do many books, write stories, skate as much as I can. If I can do that, I’ll be happy all my life."

What does your day-to-day life look like?

Every day, I drink probably five to ten coffees. [laughs] If I’m in Marseille, I wake up in my little nest and I go to the other nest, which is the art studio, and I’m really autistic in a way. I just want to go to the studio, be surrounded by paintings, and have time to create. Sometimes I go to skate, too, but I think I skate when I travel, and when I’m in Marseille, I spend all my time in the studio. I love it.

It feels like there is no fear when you’re painting, you’re just in the zone.

I think the more you paint, the more you realize you have to go for it and not be scared because the main thing is to enjoy it. When you do big paintings, you need to be free to move otherwise you do really little canvases and you’re surrounded by borders and you can have a hard time. When you do it big, it’s way more free. So I have fears, for sure, but when I’m trying to do it, I know if it goes wrong, I will always be able to paint over it. So basically, I can try until I feel it’s good. That’s why you don’t have to have any fear.

What about your comic stuff, like The Drift?

The Drift is more like a graphic novel because there is no dialogue and it’s only in black and white. It’s about a princess that has no iris in her eyes. She drives a Corvette in space, she’s trying to find some women, again powerful women, a tribe that she’s gonna meet, and one of them is gonna give her a crystal ball that opens her third eye and then she’s gonna have irises in her eyes – and then she’s gonna travel through many dimensions.

Where does that surrealistic cosmic space influence come from?

I don’t know, I guess it’s from the movies and the comic books. It’s the big unknown, it’s so interesting. We’re able to travel to different dimensions for sure, we’ve just never done it. I want to believe that life is magic, and one day, we will fly through planets and black holes and we… The dark matter, for example, is full of what we are and we still don’t know what it is.

What do you think skateboarding would be in these other dimensions?

It would be a hoverboard, for sure. You can fly on the skateboard. I would love to do that.

How was the trip to the US you did before Christmas?

I went to Colorado for the first time. The skate scene there is amazing. There are a lot of girls skating, a lot of pools. We skated some backyards. I just went there knowing like three people and everyone welcomed me so nicely. Then I drove to California with my friend and we went to Santa Fe to see Meow Wolf. It’s a crazy world built by crazy people. I recommend that. It’s like stage design and they created a whole indoor world and you’re in sci-fi. You’re entering a house, you’re going to the kitchen, you enter the fridge door, and you go into another world that looks like Gattaca and then another world, and then another. It’s amazing.

How long were you in America?

I went for two months. I go there often to see my friends, skate, and go to the Redwood Forest.

Would you ever consider moving there?

I was considering it when I was 15 years old and I didn’t know how you’d move there. You need a driver’s license, you need a lot of money to have good health care. If I had been born in America, I would’ve probably died from staph infection or I wouldn’t have any teeth anymore, which would make it super hard to date boys. [laughs]I’m really lucky I was born in France.

Chloe Bernard Nosegrind Carry le Rouet Photo: Clement Chouleur

Backside Nosegrind

Did you use to do a lot of contests?

I did skate some competitions, the French Championships. I went to Malmö to skate the Continental Series. Now, I get a lot of serious injuries. I can’t keep asking so much from my body. I’m too old and I’m not good enough anyway. I appreciate not competing anymore. Also, I’m judging now. I’m judging the French Championships and they asked me to judge the German Championships this year, too. I went to a seminary in Istanbul last year. They want women to judge now. It’s quite interesting.

How did you first discover skateboarding?

I started to snowboard when I was eight years old. My dad put me on a board. I loved it, oh my God. And then at 14, I saw some skaters and it looked so cool, so I wanted a board. That’s it. There was a friend of my big brother, who was a skater. I was really shy to go by myself to the street spot, the plaza in Nice, so I asked him to bring me. He did and then I met other people, that’s it. So I started with skating street, believe it or not.

And then you moved to transition.

Yeah, thank God! It’s so hard for your body to skate street. Jumping stairs…

Did you have problems when you were young because you were a woman that skated?

No, actually I always felt like a boy and a girl together, so I didn’t, but I was really shy to fall. Boys were always welcoming me and I loved to skate with boys. I had trouble starting to skate with girls actually. It was so different. At first, it was really weird. In any different world or community or work you’ll have some hassles, so there will be some hassles in the skate world as well, but it’s not the majority.

To finish this up, what do you see for the future?

The world is gonna collapse soon. I’m not gonna get pregnant. [laughs] No, for the future if I can live like I’m living right now, doing what I like, having time to experiment, painting, tattooing… I want to do many books, write stories, skate as much as I can. If I can do that, I’ll be happy all my life. I’m really lucky that I’m able to do that right now and have been able to for a few years. I feel like I’m extremely lucky in this world as a human being and as a woman to be born in Europe, to have health care, to be able to say yes or no. When I went to India, I realized I don’t need more. I already have everything, so if I can continue like this, it’s amazing.

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