A piece by Chambers Austelle is now easily identifiable on the Charleston art scene.
Chambers focuses on the feminine form, mostly faces, which she assembles in cut-out parts before committing and painting on canvas. "Our bodies in general are very interesting. They house us, we do everything in them, people look at them like they're sexy, and are they sexy?"
Bodies are ever changing.
"And how we perceive them changes."
The same can be said for a body of work. Chambers started out making fine art photography after earning her B.A. in Studio Arts from the College of Charleston in 2012, but started exploring and painting shortly thereafter, settling into her recognizable subject matter in 2014. “I feel like I’m doing a good job promoting myself, because when I introduce myself to people they sometimes know who I am now.”
She says, "Before beginning, I worked hard on this curriculum for an entire weekend, and we started the first day and realized we had to throw that out. It wasn't fitted well for the children. These kids don't have any confidence, and we weren't going to be able to accomplish anything until we could instill some in them."
Which is to say, she couldn't direct them to draw a horse and then stand back to see how many different variations of a horse evolved in the class. Chambers instead had to walk her students through basic projects, like cut-and-paste Frankensteins, that set them up for success. "It wasn't a skill level. They just didn't have the confidence to try it, and then they'd shut down," she says, "But now they have confidence!"
After that breakthrough, Chambers started Young Artists, also at Sanders Clyde, which collects funding for one big project—like batiks with blue gel glue—holds the workshop with kids, and then moves on to a different artistic medium.
"I don't know what it will morph into over the years, but it would be great to make it easier for kids to get to us." Because, while Chambers is busy bringing art to Charleston's children, she also hopes to instill a love in them that will keep bringing them back to art on their own.
Words by Elizabeth Bowers
Photo by Andrew Cebulka