From there a collaborative relationship blossomed. The two met often and pushed their art into new realms. "We began to abandon drawing on paper," says Chan.
"We looked for glass we could draw on, and the image would build up," Schatz says. "We worked on a scenario that would begin to describe this little bubble that we were in, this world."
Their relationship soon became intimate. "Art is not a mysterious process," Chan says. "It happens to be for us, as a collaboration, a lifestyle choice."
Kansas City gets its first exposure to that lifestyle choice this weekend, when the couple's work goes on display at Grand Arts, where it will be on view through October 20.
Founded six years ago by former art dealer Sean Kelley and Margaret Silva -- granddaughter of Hallmark founder Joyce C. Hall -- as a combination gallery and studio space, Grand Arts has the bank account to provide time and money to new artists, allowing them to take their careers to a new level and produce works they'd previously only dreamed of. "We wanted to create the most uncomplicated, most generous project," Kelley says of Grand Arts. "One that is clearly responsible to the artist and the idea."
And Chan and Schatz are pushing definitions of "the artist and the idea."
Since meeting at Berkeley, they have married and come to be known collectively as Chan Schatz, Chan-Schatz or simply ChanSchatz. They both teach at Columbia University in New York. The school's online faculty directory lists them as one professor.
Since the beginning, Chan and Schatz have been recording their conversations. While one talks, the other transcribes what is being said onto a yellow legal pad. They have accumulated stacks and stacks of these.
"It's not a diary," Chan explains, "where we say, 'I got up this morning and had breakfast and had toast.'"
"But more of a record of our ideas," says Schatz, concluding her partner's thought. "It tends to be that Chan might say something and I'll hear it and repeat it back and he'll say, 'That's a great idea,' and I'll say 'That's what you just said,' and he'll say, 'No, that has nothing to do with it.'"
This record is then transferred to a computer database where the couple has also archived its nonverbal collaborations. Their individual works of art -- many of which are ablaze with kaleidoscopic fields of colorful forms -- emerge from that database; their work is as much about process as it is about the final product, a piece that can be displayed in a gallery or museum. "At a fundamental level, the visual part to our art-making sort of dovetails with the way that digital information sort of was constructed and the rise of the Internet," says Chan.
During the past fifteen years, ChanSchatz's oeuvre has grown like an informational tree that spreads through actual and virtual spaces. "[We] took the opportunity for this show to develop a nice piece of fruit on the end of one of those limbs as opposed to just building more infrastructure," says Schatz. "You could almost say that it's like a fruit basket because we have a number of different pieces that will work together to create more of a harmonious whole."
Grand Arts has allowed ChanSchatz to explore video, a complicated, expensive medium. Chan says the gallery is "one of the most beautiful and wonderful, supportive [institutions] one can imagine."
"We're sort of poster children for their mission statement," Schatz says.