Claire Chesnut: Artist of the Outdoors

As she chisels away at a piece of alabaster, Claire Chesnut, an art major at Southern Utah University has to be sure she is watching where she pounds the hammer on the rock so she doesn’t break a nail—or a finger for that matter.

Home to five beautifully sacred National Parks, it is no wonder Southern Utah is a prime spot for her to be inspired by her surroundings. Coming to SUU was like coming back home for Chesnut, to the place that first inspired her love for the outdoors.

Created with RNI Films app. Preset ‘Kodachrome 50’s’

“I sculpt Alabaster sculptures and it is a rock that is popular to Enoch, just outside of Cedar City. This takes about three to four weeks. It is a lot of chiseling with a hammer — like Michael Angelo, fancy fancy! Then you sand it, and polish it.”

Some of the most inspirational elements of the earth that inspire her art are mountain lines against the skylines, desert sunsets in Nevada and the texture of the ground floor. She finds that when she can absorb the outdoors around her, it creates a creative environment for her to start thinking of her next idea for a project.

“When it comes to 2D and 3D art, I also take so much inspiration from the desert, and then sometimes the local mountains in Cedar City, especially the ‘C’ overlook because I have a perfect view of it from my bedroom window.”

Chesnut used to find it hard to transfer things she would see in the outdoors and change it into art because she focused on photorealism art. This style of art is when it is picture-perfect and it is hard for someone to tell if it is real or not. The other side of the spectrum of art is abstract.

Abstract doesn’t represent anything, but it can reflect something real. It is nonobjective and nonrepresentational of reality. It twists reality and it is not as well-defined or structured as photorealism art is.

“Usually what happens is I look at something, and then an idea just pops in my head and I go off of whatever I have. So when I see something, I am not basing my art completely off of what I saw. It is more off of how it inspired the new idea in my head. Usually, the first takeaway I get [is] color, how it uses space, and the lines and shape,” said Chesnut.

Created with RNI Films app. Preset ‘Kodachrome 50’s’

If she gets stuck while she is working on a piece, she turns to documentaries. The last documentary that she was inspired by was called, “Zion Forever Film.” She found the lighting and the frame to be especially important. 

By watching documentaries, she can view different perspectives and see how filmmakers capture the world. She loves how through art, a person is able to see the outdoors in a different light.

“I make art because being an artist is who I am. Art is part of my being and it’s my reason to live,” said Chesnut.

Art has been Chesnut’s one consistent thing in her life that she has never given up on. Even when so many things in her life were going wrong, she was always able to turn to art. She was able to create beauty amidst all of the ashes.

“The art program at SUU is the best thing on earth. It is accepting, there is no chaos, no one is there to outdo anybody else. Everybody is there to root for each other and are excited to see what everybody else is creating. It is a healthy environment where everyone is there to learn and grow together as a team and make relationships for the career world.”

She has practiced creating art for so long and is now able to sell it. She sells it through different forms of social media like Instagram and Twitter.

“People always tell me my art resonated with them because they love that my art means something and can affect them emotionally,” explained Chesnut.

She feels grateful to live in a place that is surrounded by so much beauty. She takes full advantage of the outdoors and the landscapes as she creates art for others to enjoy.


Story by: Lacy Truman
Photos by: Claire Chesnut