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The Transcendental Beauty of Susan Chambers’ Southern Gardens cover

The Transcendental Beauty of Susan Chambers’ Southern Gardens

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this post ran in 2022. We’re publishing this update in honor of our April 2024 exhibition, In My Backyard, which includes work from Susan Chambers.

Susan Chambers strays far from the American standard of a manicured lawn and a garden carpeted with non-native plants. The Arkansas-based painter practices soliphilia, a term coined by sustainability professor Glenn Albrecht that refers to “the love and responsibility for a place, bioregion, planet, and the unity of interrelated interests within it.”

Keeping this practice in mind over the past six years, Susan supports a flourishing, biodiverse garden populated by native plants and buzzing pollinators—the perfect inspiration for her lush and leafy work. After tending to her garden, Susan creates small plein-air studies that undergo expansion and elaboration in her studio. “I seek a magical place between reality and abstraction,” she says of her process. Her acrylic work, painted in a flattened style, features food-bearing plants, flowers, birds, insects, and often Susan herself, working away at an easel or gripping a garden hose.

Based in Arkansas, Susan Chambers explores local flora and fauna through hyper-stylized acrylic paintings that teem with flowers, plants, and insects.
‘Garden of Change’

“Space is flattened and compressed to express the density and chaos of abundance,” Susan writes in her artist statement. “My colors are saturated, and I often use complementary contrast. When the colors vibrate I feel the transcendence of being in the garden.”

Continually inspired by the peace she finds among plants, Susan explores local flora and fauna in multiple themed series. Her Southern series lazes in Gothic charm, while Folk delights in pink flamingos and red-capped gnomes. Similarly, the Environmental series traces the life of a cozy home as it’s battered by pollution, foreclosure, and rising tides. Here, Susan nods to the concept of solastalgia, a form of existential depression caused by the loss of safe space. While she refuses to paper over environmental angst, Susan finds her own peace of mind by working with her hands and doing good where she can. “The more that I work in my garden, the more I learn about myself and my connection to the earth,” she says. “To lose yourself in the garden is to find a new way of being.”

Scroll through to see Susan’s work, then head to our April 2024 exhibition, In My Backyard, to see her submission, “Home Grown National Park.”

“To lose yourself in the garden is to find a new way of being.” — Susan Chambers

Based in Arkansas, Susan Chambers explores local flora and fauna through hyper-stylized acrylic paintings that teem with flowers, plants, and insects.
‘Indian Summer’
Based in Arkansas, Susan Chambers explores local flora and fauna through hyper-stylized acrylic paintings that teem with flowers, plants, and insects.
‘Sanctuary’
Based in Arkansas, Susan Chambers explores local flora and fauna through hyper-stylized acrylic paintings that teem with flowers, plants, and insects.
‘End of Summer’
‘The Artist’s Garden’
‘My Neighbors’
‘Leave It Be’
‘Urban Sanctuary’
‘Going to Seed’
‘Autumn Sanctuary’
‘In the Garden’
‘Blue Gate Garden’
‘For the Birds’

Susan Chambers: Website | Instagram | Facebook

All photos published with permission of the artist(s).

Want to be featured on NOT REAL ART? Email editor@notrealart.com with a short introduction and a link to your online portfolio or three images of your work.

Jenna Eberhardt

Jenna Eberhardt (she/her/hers) is NOT REAL ART’s associate editor. Jenna is a writer and working artist from Asheville, NC, who specializes in watercolor botanicals and dreamy moonscapes. A true night owl, Jenna enjoys a minimum of two cups of coffee per day and isn’t afraid of the dark when she’s up late painting. As a registered yoga instructor with a background in health and wellness, Jenna believes in the brain-boosting power of a regular mindfulness practice, regarding rest and relaxation as a necessary part of the creative process.

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