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As a young, thriving artist, Chelsea Theodossis has never thought about death, much less the legacy she might leave. However, upon gradually and emotionally witnessing the deaths of people dearest to her, she began pondering life and its end. They were unknown to many, not really famous enough to be included in the pages of the book or written about in the newspaper, but to her, they were real, relevant characters in her evolving story. They were gone too soon, and the world did not even seem to notice. In her moments of paying respect to each one, she reflected on what would be said at her own passing. These moments, often dreaded by everyone equally given with only one life, reminded her of our mortality and our fragility as humans on borrowed time with unwritten his/her stories. In her prayerful solitude, she asks, “Where do these unknown stories go before they take their long, eternal rest?”

Challenging the concept that most people consider morbid for the youth, she reflects on how to remember the varied stories of the unknown and the nameless who came before us and walked the very soil we stand and walk on every day. While she may not have centuries to listen to all their stories, she realizes she can metaphorically paint an ocean of blank pages and unwritten books as an open invitation where these unknown stories can go and be monumentalized, word for word, piece by piece.

With a calm disposition and disciplined manner, she paints elaborate collections of books and loose pages, all unwritten and blank, to refer to the number of people whose stories she hopes were written, shared, or at least, heard. But more than that, each piece of a book or a page allegorically represents the brevity and fragility of life. To suggest the irretrievable passage of time, she captures the movement of a page or a book caught in space. Instead of fashionably organizing the visual elements in each canvas, she allows a few pages to be loose and scattered in order to represent the need to find, gather, and collect these stories. Each page void of any word is a metaphor to see what is missing as another way of seeing things. It invites people to be aware that despite their stories being unknown to many, it does not mean that theirs never existed.

Using a limited color palette, she paints each visual metaphor in its naturalistic, still-life portrayal with a distinct baroque taste, allowing her to instill dignity in each story it represents and monumentalizes. Her creative layout of representational objects showcases soft and rigid angles and geometry, letting viewers engage with the visual flow of her open narratives. To draw not just the eyes but the emotions of each viewer, she choreographs the intense lighting of each piece to create volumes of dramatic illumination. As with all still-lifes, the focal objective is realism, and she achieves it, masterfully, in her own contemporaneous style.

Through her first solo exhibition, she hopes to cultivate a sense of mindfulness, of being awake, and of knowing what we are doing now, most especially that tomorrow is never promised. That more than leaving people our unknown stories as we take our last breath, we need to be reminded that the most important thing in this borrowed life is to give our best today as the start of making our personal his/herstory. That regardless of where we start, we need to motivate ourselves to put a wrinkle in the social fabric, in the hope that people who might see it may be encouraged to share our story and through this, we continue to live.

As we write our own stories, she hopes that through her visual narratives, she is able to remind us to take time to listen to the life stories of those near us; those of the common and the ordinary who are living. Because in doing so, we allow them to feel valued and not allow the possibilities of having them bring their stories to their grave, unheard. May the blank pages and books be filled with learned and wise words from the living and slowly empty, piece by piece, the Home of Unknown Tales.

- Prim Paypon

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