Installation view of artist's 2022 exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center, shows colorful video projected onto three walls. In the right foreground a viewers sits, their back to the camera, on a wooden bench painted by the artist in bright geometric patterns.
Installation view, "An Instrument in the Shape of a Woman," Chicago Cultural Center Credit: Courtesy the artist

In our age of overwhelming hyperconsumption, time scarcity, and environmental concerns, few artists are more inspiring than Selina Trepp, 49. In October 2012 she stopped acquiring new art materials and created “I Work With What I Have,” a concept that permeates all her work. “Work with what you have. If it doesn’t work one way, do it another way,” Trepp summarizes. She adopted this principle shortly after having her first and only child, when time and money demanded more consideration. Trepp also lists other reasons such as “modeling the ability to make without consuming” and “affecting the value within [her] studio ecosystem.” “When things start running out, they become more powerful,” she says. 

The result of this practice is a more creative, layered, and vibrant output, brimming with color and movement. So much so that Trepp is known for her strangely beautiful abstract animations—last year they took up a whole room at the Chicago Cultural Center, and in the summer of 2021 they were projected nightly on the Merchandise Mart’s massive facade as part of the series Art on the Mart. Trepp will soon have one of her stop-motion animations, We Walk Together, permanently installed at O’Hare airport. 

The artist in her studio
Courtesy the artist

Born in Switzerland and raised in a large commune just outside of Zürich, Trepp had an unusual upbringing. She considers her parents one of her biggest influences, “never asking me to conform,” she says. “My father gave me this advice: ‘If in doubt, be radical.’ This is great advice, but beware—it can backfire,” she adds, in a playful tone. Her husband, Dan Bitney—a percussionist for cult band Tortoise and Trepp’s partner in their musical duo, Spectralina, and their child, Maxine, also count as major influences: “Dan is a gifted musician and one of the kindest people I know. My child, who is autistic, is super creative and [is someone] from whom I learn a lot every day.”

Best of Chicago 2022 is presented by