About this body of work:
I am exploring the complex way in which our society views women and their relation to beauty. Inspired by fashion photography and the evolution of the roles of women, I place idealized women in isolated settings saturated with bright colors, challenging the viewer to confront the dichotomy between the perception of liberation and that of confinement.
Currently, which artists are you obsessed with or inspired by? Why?
First I need to say I am inspired by so many artists- too many to name. I look at images constantly. In college I was absolutely obsessed with Bacon, Rothko, and Sally Mann. Their work is so captivating it becomes almost meditative for me. My most recent favorites are Egon Schiele, Francesca Woodman, and Edward Hopper. I find their work haunting. I love Schiele’s lines and use of negative space. Hopper’s paintings are the quietest paintings I’ve ever seen. There is such a strong sense of setting. They’re stories that draw you into somewhere you don’t belong.
Most bizarre exchange with a stranger?
When I was in high school I worked at Charley’s Steakery in the food court at the mall. A man with a blue suitcase came up and proceeded to take a “dry” shower using our malt vinegar bottle. I let him pour it all over himself while I went to the back and called security.
Our most loved quotes help define who we are. Do you have any favorite ones?
“I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.” –Poe
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” –Rumi
“There is no exquisite beauty…without some strangeness in the proportion.” –Poe
“We must strive to be like the moon.” –An old man in Kabati, from A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah
“One need not be a chamber to be haunted, one need not be a house; the brain has corridors surpassing material place.” -Dickinson
I like to ask artists what they have on their bedside table, but since you and your partner sleep in a tent instead of a bed, what’s on the table outside that magical, little space?
Lolita by Nabokov, The Yellow House: Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Nine Turbulent Weeks in Provence by Martin Gayford, facial cream, a lamp, and two brushes.
What are you currently reading?
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
What’s some worthy advice you’ve been given?
“Do what makes you happy.” – Mom
“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.” – Joseph Chilton Pearce…I guess this wasn’t actually given to me, but I definitely repeat it to myself daily.
What music are you currently listening to?
There is so much going on in my head constantly it’s very hard for me to get anything done if there are any words in the song. I listen to a lot of classical music, mostly composers from the Romantic and Impressionistic Era and Gypsy Jazz. On days when it rains I keep the lights low and play Gregorian Chants. And some days I just play the rain app on my phone through my husband’s amp and pretend it’s pouring outside. I’m definitely a pluviophile.
Artists usually have such sincere admiration for objects. Any favorites in your home or studio, or a favorite collection of things?
Our house is filled with things we’ve collected over the years. We have a ton of books, plants, random knickknacks, and thrift shop art. I love being surrounded by so many objects. There are endless stories in each one. My favorites are the ones passed down by my family: my mom’s vase that she made in college, an old picture of my great uncle at a costume party, paintings by my grandmother and great grandmother.
Lastly, why do you do what you do?
Making art makes me happy, so I make it. When I was in high school I wanted to be a poetry professor. By the time I started college, the mind behind the poetry interested me more and I wanted to study psychiatry. After two years of being a biology major, I realized that my studies were more factual than romantic and interpretive. I switched my major to studio arts and here we are. No matter what you make, when you’re done, something exists that didn’t before hand. I love that. It’s addicting and satisfying. Creating also forces you to constantly look at everything in a different way. It keeps your imagination big and your heart young. It eventually becomes who you are, not just something you do.
Chambers Austelle is a contemporary figurative painter and educator living and working in Charleston, SC. She is best known for her compositions of vivid color and female subjects. The isolated environments challenge the viewer to question the way beauty and women are perceived in our culture.
Austelle received her BA in Studio Arts from the College of Charleston. Her work has been exhibited nationally and exists in many private collections. Recently, she was awarded Best in Show at The City Gallery for “Piccolo Spoleto’s 2016 Juried Exhibition”, as well as Charlie Magazine’s “50 Most Progressive”. Austelle’s work has been featured in publications such as Expose Art Magazine, The Artist Catalogue, Fresh Paint Magazine, The Jealous Curator, Create Magazine and more.
Link to her personal website here.