Chambers Austelle, a painter, and teacher at Redux, has always been really creative. And by creative, we mean messy. "At age seven my mom just gave up on keeping my room clean," laughs Austelle. What started as the kind of art created by dripping nail polish on carpet turned into a studio art major at CofC, where Austelle focused on photography. Post-college she realized that photography, film, not digital, was an expensive habit. "I always felt like I was a painter," she says. So, she quit her job and started painting.
Austelle didn't find her muse immediately. "I would paint the salad I was eating. I was trying to figure it out," she says. In March 2014 Austelle paints what she calls her "first girl." And the rest is, as they say, history. "I thought 'This is it. This makes sense,'" she says.
Chambers, who originally wanted to go to med school to be a psychiatrist, says that her art is inspired by "how we perceive our bodies." People often tell her that her pieces look like pop art, which she doesn't disagree with. "It does look like that, but that's not my intention. I'm distorting bodies and balancing it with different colors," she says. "My paintings are the products of the math problem I'm solving."
Now two years into her girl-painting groove, Austelle is set to debut new images next week, Tues. Mar. 1. Ten percent of all proceeds from the paintings
will benefit Young Artists, a program that Austelle started at Redux six months ago.
After a couple of years of teaching kids' art classes at Redux, Austelle, who is also the studio's outreach coordinator, felt like there was more she could do to give back to kids in Charleston. "I felt like I was grounded enough, like I could take something else on," she says. So she partnered with Redux to create Young Artists, an outreach organization specifically geared toward special art projects in schools that can't normally afford the materials for them.
Silk batiks made with Elmer's glue and acrylic paint.
The program is new, so Austelle is going to see how it goes after the first project, silk batiks. Kids at Sanders Clyde Elementary school will design silk batik scarves that they can take home. Batik is normally made with hot wax and dye, which isn't very child-friendly, so Austelle is using Elmer's glue and acrylic paint instead.
"Eventually instead of buying materials, I want to do more long term stuff," she says of Young Artists. These long term projects could range from building a dark room in a school to expanding Redux itself, so that more classes and kids could learn at the studio.
"I love teaching kids," says Austelle. "One will say 'Mine looks different!' and be excited about that."