The Road Less Traveled

My name is Yen and I’m half of the art and design firm, Chin-Azzaro. My husband, Nick, is my fantastic partner and we’re beyond excited to finally launch this business. Here’s our story.

For the last seven years we lived in Chicago, building careers in the fine art (me) and the commercial photography (him) world. We were successful in the sense that we started there with no jobs and came out with exhibits, clients and dear, dear friends. After a certain point, we tired of the hustle and bustle of Wicker Park, the broken glass and occasional friendly bum mumbling for change. We wanted green, space and fresh air. After banging our heads for a while as to where to move on to next, it dawned on us that where we met, Ann Arbor, Michigan, was a grand place to return to. So here we are!

Part of the reason we decided to wander down the treacherous road of freelance was due to the fact that there weren’t jobs that translated directly to what we did in the big city. I was the director of an art gallery dealing major American paintings and prints. Meaning, each piece had a market established value at auction or in the retail market. I’ve handled everything from Mary Cassatt to William Merritt Chase to Robert Rauschenberg. I’ve also written academic essays and worked with the National Academy Museum, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, The Butler Institute of American Art among others. I relished surveying the historical and significant works I came across. Even the steep learning curve I had to maneuver as a young woman in the predominantly male-dominated arena was a fun challenge. I’ve met the most gracious and fun-loving people in collectors, curators and artists. In between I did a lot of children’s and fashion illustration and designed the occasional wedding invitation or Christmas card.

Nick followed a different path altogether. Prior to moving to Chicago, he mapped out the studios and photographers he wanted to work with, called them and met with them. This proactive move got him immediate work as an assistant (setting up lighting, handling equipment, managing transport) but it also meant long hours and for a while, national and international travel. Now this may sound pretty glamourous but it was burdensome to say the least. I missed him terribly and phone calls at odd hours became the norm. After a while he switched to a “permalance” gig at a marketing firm (ongoing work also known as permanent freelance). The hours and pay were somewhat predictable but he wanted more. He has and always will be an extremely warm person but cynical artist. His view of the world is through one lens rose, one lens muddied pair of glasses. He’s not going to read this that thoroughly, right? This ideology translates to his photo comic books on social inequality and dark innards of human nature. He’s an exceptional storyteller and the perfect counterweight to my, at times, cotton candy-esque works. He started to create personal work and exhibited with iconic fashion photographer Stan Malinowski in 2008 along with being invited to show at numerous galleries.

While we may not be able to replicate that exact experience we can certainly bring that air of professionalism, excitement and knowledge to the art market here.

Everyday one of us will blog about a myriad of topics from how to hang art to how to light a tabletop photograph. Our homelife and work is neatly entangled and there’s not an aspect of art and design that doesn’t inspire us, even in the smallest way. Consider this first entry a (long) mission statement of who we are and what we’re about. I hope that you’ll continue to follow us down the rabbit hole…

Y + N

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