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Christine Finley

Culture

Christine Finley has one rule when you meet her: please don’t call her Christine. But beyond that, everything goes for Finley, a magnetic and energetic artist turned social activist who is dedicated to creating scalable impact through paint.

Finley got her start painting in both the US and Italy, and has since grown to become a strong female force in the industry, creating artworks that celebrate the trinity of art, women and the environment. Her signature pieces, large-scale murals, combine geometric shapes and bold colors with tropes from classical Italian masterpieces, sacred images and pop culture; whatever the form, all of Finley’s work comes from the same intention: “To inspire people to get moving and grooving in their true heart’s desire.

Rules of Impact // Christine Finley

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In her work, Finley explores femininity, love, rapture, joy and happiness as a means of connecting emotionally and intuitively with her viewers. “I have a mission to create beauty on a large scale for the planet right now,” she says firmly. And in a world masked by the pervasiveness of technology, she commands her audience to slow down, connect within, and reimagine how the world could — or should — be. “It is the antithesis of darkness,” she describes of her pieces.


Look at this artwork, and then question what you can do in your environment

Finley’s activism starts by envisioning opportunities she wants in her own heart, and then considering how to manifest greater change through collaborations that elicit joy and positivity. The reaction she hopes to invoke in others is one of action: “Look at this artwork, and then question what you can do in your environment,” she says. “Make it beautiful, or poignant, or poetic. Your choice. I want to help people become grounded in their passion so they can go out into the world.”


This interplay between symmetry within our hearts, and the freedom and flexibility to act in our own unique and special way, mirrors her approach to painting, which dances between iconic and familiar while remaining formless and subject to an infinite number of interpretations from its viewer.

While most might see a dumpster in the street for nothing more than that, Finley sees a blank canvas where she can plaster colorful wallpaper to bring new meaning to urban environments. tweet

Her activism began with organizing salon-style exhibits, poetry readings, and performance art, then evolved into large-scale productions, including the Whitney Houston Biennial, an all-women art show running in parallel to the Whitney Museum Biennial. This has grown exponentially bigger each year, with plans to expand into female journalism, add a film festival, secure grants and sponsors, and more.


Beyond activism and collaboration, raising consciousness has always been a priority for her creative vision and purpose, which she does by reimagining beauty in relationships to everyday objects. While most might see a dumpster in the street for nothing more than that, Finley sees a blank canvas where she can plaster colorful wallpaper to bring new meaning to urban environments. She transforms trash into objects of inspiration and joy: “You can see people’s consciousness change, see them smile,” she explains. “And by product, they become more mindful of where they put their trash and their recycling — and in this way the dumpsters draw attention to how we can all play our part in cleaning up the environment.” To bring awareness to her alternative form of environmentalism, Finley set up ’trash’ installations in 12 cities and earned international acclaim for the project. It’s also become somewhat of a signature: today, she travels with two rolls of wallpaper wherever she goes.

Finley has come a long way from the small town in central Missouri where she grew up. A daughter of a Christian Scientist, Finley was baptized in the Baptist Church and credits her mother’s influence as a reason for her connection to both God and meditation. Finley first aspired to be a lawyer or Supreme Court Justice when she left for college at the University of Missouri, but one professor changed everything.

“I want to help people become grounded in their passion so they can go out into the world.”

In a course called The Creative Process, Finley created 32 paintings in three months. “This woman really broke it down for me and I became an artist,” Finley says. “It was actually a calling. I knew that I had to change my life.” And so she did. Finley applied to Pratt Institute, moved to New York City and developed her career as an artist. “The experience taught me how to scale,” she explains of creating large mural projects and collections, thinking beyond the scope of conventional artists.

After school, she ended up in Rome, and a week vacation became nine months when world-famous designer Attilio Vaccari invited her to become a resident of his fashion house. “We talked for 13 hours [when we first met]. He went through my website like a crazy person. What’s this, what’s that.” The following morning his maid met her with coffee and asked Finley to join Attilio on the balcony. “See that apartment building? We own that and we have a space for you,” he told her. “I want you to…paint. But you have to paint on canvas, that’s all I ask.” Attilio visited her studio 3-4 times per week, providing feedback and mentorship. “It was a perfect rebirth; I spoke to almost no one. It taught me deeply about solitude and going deep inside myself.”


Rome transformed Finley as an artist. She started exploring the depths of archetypes, which she likes to call “the lava of all that is — icons of unconditional love and beauty.” She incorporated timeless images of icons who represent the beauty and essence of humanity: Pieta, Bernini’s Essence of Santa Teresa, Hellenistic sculptures. “These are the greatest hits of beauty.”

“It was a perfect rebirth; I spoke to almost no one. It taught me deeply about solitude and going deep inside myself.”

Nine years later the formative experiences with her professor and Attilio (who today she refers to as her “Art Dad”) serve as motivations for her work empowering female-identifying artists. Finley strives to create opportunities that she wants for herself, or never had, and in doing so she’s built a supportive community that flows and manifests beauty in ways she never imagined. She recalls hanging art in last year’s Whitney Houston Biennial. “If I had one question, I would shout it out and there were 7-8 other women in the room who would say ‘Try this’ and it would literally be perfect.” In this way, the magic of coming together inspires her to think even bigger, pushing the boundaries in the same way as her mentoring relationships did. The processes move through and transcend her individual efforts as an artist.


The future appears limitless for Finley, and she gets excited about the ways in which technologies like augmented reality may further enhance our lives. She imagines “walking down the street and having dumpsters as works of art, shops with augmented reality, holograms everywhere of the most beautiful things with art dripping from every corner of our environment.” Yet she is quick to point out that it all starts inside. “We are the most interesting technology there is. Our bodies and our connection to things is so fantastic. It’s all about the user to me.”

We are the most interesting technology there is. Our bodies and our connection to things is so fantastic. It’s all about the user to me.

As we aspire towards manifesting the highest ideals of beauty and wonder into the world, Finley is a compelling reminder that joy and happiness start within our hearts.