Stan Chisholm takes artistic expression “to another realm” – St. Louis American | Ad On Picture

Stan Chisholm, commonly known as 18&Counting, is a modern Renaissance man. A native of South St. Louis is a painter, sculptor, rapper, producer and teacher.

Teatopia in the Cherokee area is a perfect place to talk to any artist and is one of their favorite hangouts. There’s wall-to-wall art by local artists and tunes by Amy Winehouse playing in the background, adding a soft chill vibe as Chisholm talked about where 18&Counting has been and where he’s going.

Chisholm has five albums, with his first, Birds At This Hour, being a collection of songs that are raw and unpolished. His goal is to take hip-hop to another world. He has collaborated with local song artists Eric Donte, Vancouver China and Chris Burks.

The multidisciplinary artist does not focus on one art form. He’s a free spirit waiting for the universe to guide him on his next adventure.

According to Chisholm, that could be anywhere you do.

Chisholm developed 18&Counting in middle school. The Rockwood School District student was part of the voluntary transfer program, which gave him access to education and experiences he might not have had in his south St. Louis community.

It was a different world for him, he made friends with all sorts of students and so he started counting the different personalities he met. It’s something he wore throughout middle school through high school. By the time he was 18, he decided that this would be his “stopping number, to leave a mark but keep counting and noticing the different people the universe is sending him.”

His interest culminated in expressing himself through art. He began to dabble in painting and rapping, songwriting and graphic design. He pursued his artistic goals by attending the Art Institute of Chicago. As a freshman, he explored several disciplines of art, but never settled on just one

“None of those things are career paths that I’m pursuing. That’s what I’m feeling right now, that’s where the energy is, that’s what I’m enjoying right now,” he said.

Chisholm said he’s always been drawn to sketching and drawing. He started painting graffiti art in high school, which he enjoyed because he could be more creative with spray paint and paint on different textures. He felt that pencil and paper limited how he could express himself and the story he wanted to tell through his art.

During his senior year, Chisholm decided to take the safe route and go to college and study to become a graphic designer. That goal was deterred when his art teacher saw her student remain true to herself as an artist.

She challenged him not to give in to his fear of failure and to always remain true to himself. By the fall of the next school year, Chisholm was a student at the Art Institute of Chicago.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone define a career path for me so directly,” Chisholm said.

He says he’s grateful for her advice because it gave him the freedom to study art but also to explore other artistic avenues like photography. He followed the work of Justin Tony Tino and Cababi while he was in college and he was so proud to see them work nationally and he knew he was on the right track.

He soon began sculpting, which he actually calls “relief sculpting”.

Experimenting with insulating foam to create his unique pieces, he said “there’s a kind of power in manipulating material into shapes” that he says took him to another world. He took lyrics from his music and created pieces out of the foam that matched the lyrics to his music.

“I always knew I wanted to do something like this,” Chisholm said.

“I wanted to make something more defined, sophisticated, yet still abstract artwork. One of his works, a fleur de lis for the mayor’s carnival ball, hangs in the town hall.

With so many disciplines in the arts, one would guess he has a favorite, one he’s more passionate about. He neither superimposes nor believes in comparing his different art forms.

“In one way or another, they’re all related,” he said.

Like using his texts to create his sculptures or paintings, they are all a part of him. He sees his music the same way. He’s not into “the trendy stuff”.

“Yes, it’s rap, but I’m not trying to sound like everything else,” Chisholm said.

He says it doesn’t matter if beat or rhythm rap over it. He says he never knows what he’s going to rap about, what instruments he’s going to use, or what beat he’s going to follow. He just goes into the studio and lets things flow.

“It’s about intentionally trying to create sounds and textures that sound fresh to me and not staying in a familiar place for people to enjoy,” he said.

He says making music is like putting a puzzle together, putting different sounds together. He’s more fascinated by styles of music that haven’t worked than by trends that do.

“It’s about putting everything together and making this thing,” Chisholm said.

He doesn’t mind criticism. Naysayers have compared his style to punk rock and he says that’s fine, acknowledging that people will define his music based on their experience of music.

“One of the most important things for me as a black man is to show opportunities,” Chisholm said

He says that blacks have been “restricted” throughout history.

“It’s extremely important to demonstrate ‘limitlessness’ and show possibilities. I’m here to encourage it,” he said.

Chisholm holds firmly to the idea that art should support the larger ideas, adding humor to his claim that he says “don’t let it drive you crazy”.

He says experiments are “a big thing when you’re trying to figure yourself out, and you have to have a lot of bad ideas before you get to the good stuff.

“You have to have creative confidence,” Chisholm said.

His next project, Straight To Tape, with rap artist Chris Burks is out this fall.

Ashley Winters is a reporter at Report for America

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