Painter Leigh Anne Chambers Enjoys the Tactile Pleasures of Artmaking [Interview]
Few things excite Leigh Anne Chambers more than a trip to the hardware store. The Virginia-based artist luxuriates in the tactile pleasures provided by liquid rubber and spray paint, materials you’re more likely to find at Lowe’s than your local art store.
“My studio practice is largely driven by materials,” she writes in her artist statement. And while Chambers makes use of traditional mediums like oil and acrylic, she is still “drawn to the immediacy of supplies from the hardware store.” Flooding her canvas with gooey, black rubber, Chambers pushes and scrapes the material away to reveal a swirling vortex of neon color.
Chambers’ graphic mark-making is guided by her fascination with pop culture and the subconscious: “I am channeling the surrealists, in that I want to reveal ideas in my work that come from the subconscious. I see my imagery, where I use composites of images from cartoons and coloring books, in the same vein as automatic writing or drawing.”
Resembling a sophisticated version of crayon scratch art, Chambers’ large-scale paintings invite viewers to remember what art-making felt like as children: an anything-goes playground, unfettered by the rules and regulations of adulthood.
In Today’s Q+Art Interview…
Leigh Anne Chambers discusses her broad definition of success, the perks of being selfish with your time, and the tenuous definition of artists as arbiters of change.
If you could have dinner with any artist, living or dead, who would it be?
Leigh Anne Chambers: If I could have dinner with any artist living or dead, I would choose formalist painter Milton Avery and his wife Sally. There are too many wonderful choices of course, but I would like to talk to this artist duo and discuss life choices and gender roles in the time that they were living, and in relation to now. Definitely to discuss his relationship to color, but most of all how he remained resolute in making work that did not necessarily garner commercial success in his time.
What do you wish you learned in art school but weren’t taught?
LAC: I don’t know that there is anything that I wished I had learned in art school. I think when you decide to be an artist that you are compelled to do it, and nobody can talk you out of it.
What's your biggest barrier to being an artist?
LAC: The biggest barrier to being an artist is having enough time to be in the studio and knowing that you have to be selfish with your time to be successful.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
LAC: I maintain a work/ life balance by trying to exercise regularly and staying connected to other artists also working on spiritual health.
What does generosity mean to you as an artist?
LAC: Generosity is important in the artist community; it includes networking and having a group of supportive friends. I think artists tend to be most successful when they support each other, recommend each other to curators, galleries, opportunities, and even with sales. I think the most successful artists I know are the most generous.
What does success mean to you as an artist?
LAC: I think success can mean so many different things, and history supports that. If it is important for someone to add to the conversation of painting, then that is a success in itself. I was going to say that if someone has commercial success without adding to the dialogue, that is great too. But I don’t know if I believe that.
What role does the artist have in society?
LAC: I have a friend who is a painter and an environmental activist. They are two separate things for her. I think in some instances that the artist can take the lead in changing the world, like Ai Weiwei. I am more of the mind to quote Dave Hickey: “Art is the stuff we make to replace the shit we hate.”
If you had to pick one, would you rather be a historically significant or commercially successful artist? Why?
LAC: If I had to pick between being historically significant or commercially successful, I would choose being historically significant, hands down; that is why I am perpetually broke!
What are you working on that you’re excited about right now?
LAC: The thing that I am excited about right now is scale. I moved into a large studio space that was afforded to me by my teaching position. So I am making work that is going to be too large for me to transport in my own vehicle. I am using liquid rubber on panel and really pushing the scale.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. All photos published with permission of the artist.
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