“They can just be”: The Art of Dominic Chambers by Jason Collins

clouds and blue sky
“Something Came to Me” Dominic Chambers, 2019

Known for his vibrant and surreal artwork, Dominic Chambers’ art pieces can fill the void by using abstract objects and bringing them into the forefront. Born in 1993 in St. Louis, Missouri, Chambers currently resides in New Haven, Connecticut.

Chambers’ current line of artworks encompasses elements of his friends and acquaintances who are engaging in acts of contemplation and relaxation. Chambers reflects, “Too often, the Black body has been located in our imaginations as one incapable of rest, often when we imagine what the Black body is doing it is usually an act of labor, rebellion, or resistance.” Chambers’ recent subjects in his works are often shown deep in thought or reading, with their gaze focused on points that go beyond the artwork. 

Chambers’ Start and Influence in Art

Chambers often centers his artworks on racial injustices, identity, and the need for relaxation and leisure. Interestingly, Chambers started his art passion by drawing characters from the anime series Dragon Ball Z. As time went on, he developed a passion for storytelling. His passion for storytelling expanded once he was introduced to art history while at college. 

Chambers was influenced heavily by the artist Aaron Fowler, who grew up in the same area as Chambers. Chambers stated, “When I learned about Aaron Fowler, an artist who was from my hood,” Chambers said, “he became my mirror, or my blueprint, so to speak.” All Chambers needed was a sign that a sweet Black art life (à la poet Nikky Finney’s “sweet Black writing life”) was possible. Fowler’s trajectory operated as Chambers’ north star: “Shouts out Aaron Fowler!”  

Chambers’ Art style

As most of Chambers’ artwork focuses on African people in a relaxed and comfortable position, you can see that the artwork itself takes on a soft and vibrant appeal. The line work has no jagged edges or sharp lines; instead, the outlines lazily move your eyes across the art piece. This non-jagged line work can be seen in his Wash Paintings Collection.

Chambers uses vibrant and bold colors to unlock the deeper meaning of the focus in the pieces he creates. The colors let you lose yourself while gazing at the person in the painting, relaxing, or focusing on something. The contrasting bold colors create a surge of energy, yet they bring balance to the art pieces. This can be seen in his artwork Something Came To Me (2019) where the majority of the artwork’s dark blue is contrasted by two figures in the background who are completely white. The yellow accents on the boots and the subject’s shirt contrasts against the white and blue. 
The idea behind his artworks is to remove the repetition of African Americans in artworks needing to be busy working or active. Instead, Chambers is invoking a new calm and relaxed posture, which is commonly depicted by the antagonist of the artwork reading. It can also be seen as a way to depict the African American culture as intellectual instead of typical African American resistance artwork. While resistance artwork has a lot of strength, there is a softness in Chambers’ work, almost as if time has stopped and the subject doesn’t need to fight, they can just be. This is evidenced by the calm and relaxed poses that can be seen in his Summers not as long as it used to be (2019) and his Dark Skin of Summer Shade (2019).

Jason Collins is a freelance writer, epicure, and lover of all things human expression. While he has not had the opportunity to go to the Louvre in-person he has taken more virtual tours than he would care to remember or mention. When he is not out getting lost somewhere in the desert of Nevada he spends most of his time with his two beagles Max and Sherry.

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