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  • Writer's pictureNaya Clark

Claire Chambless – The feminine experience through textile installations

Claire Chambless is a multi-disciplinary artist who has worked within the methods of sculpture, installation,and painting. Chambless is one of the Hughley Fellowship artists at WonderRoot, an Atlanta based art nonprofit that aims to bring together the arts, artists, and the communities they live in. Every year, the Hughley Fellowship program gathers 12 artists to have the opportunity to build upon their existing art careers through exhibitions, roundtables, mentorships, workshops, and a residency.

Chambless’ flamboyant installations highlight the experiences of being feminine. She not only incorporates her own experiences in the material that she chooses, but allows others to live through her sculptures and feel liberated by them as well.

In one installation in particular, entitled “Anti-Heroine (Glam Girl)”, Chambless made with actual pantyhose as a medium. She elaborates on the significance of the sheer material, “My mom used to make me wear panty hose to church, so for me, it’s a barrier between our skin and the exterior world.”, says Chambless.

Located in Buckhead Atlanta, near Lenox Mall, the The Mandarin Oriental hotel welcomes residents with a valet service, a water fountain, and satisfying landscaping that captures the eye. Residents then enter through dark brown doors, on to diamond checkered marble floors. Plush chairs spread their arms in the dining area that awaits, after greetings from staff in all black. At the Mandarin, the shape of an Oriental fan is everywhere — inscribed in napkins, on the hotel pens, and the name plates of the staff to name a few.

The mostly foreign and business class guests talk about upper echelon lifestyles over expensive brunches. Soothing jazz renditions of modern hits echoe between the marble-floored halls, glistening with dim lights and natural sunlight, from large windows that follow the walls of the Mandarin. Between the marble floors and seemingly sky-high ceilings, the artwork of Claire Chambless fan and ripple at the guest.

The elaborate artworks made mostly from Roman shades, undulate in monochrome and neutral colors, expanding from an undefined center, and flirt with the eye everywhere within them at once.The individual installations have titles such as “You Forgot to Leave My Soul”, “ExcessSex”, and “You Can Count On Me To Misbehave”, and topple between spreading against the wall and reaching out toward the viewer. “I think between the space between painting and sculpture is really fascinating. At what point is something a sculpture, and what point is something a 2D work?”, says Chambless.

Chambless speaks of them pridefully, and describes them as if they themselves are women with their own personalities, backgrounds, insecurities, and imperfections, and strong suits. The pieces do, in fact, exude their own energy against the hard lines and columns in the interior of the Mandarin Oriental. “I’m into the psychology of material and process, and so soft materials — The ones I use, anyway, have a femininity to them.”, says Chambless.

Through Chambless’ work, the topics of femininity, tactile stimulation, and experience resonate with viewers. “I think it’s fascinating that we adorn ourselves, what we communicate to the world, and how people make these assumptions about you, based off of the way you’re dressed, your perceived socioeconomic level, your race, or your gender, or whatever, but often those aren’t the best representations of who you are.”, says Chambless.

The pieces displayed in the Mandarin Oriental lobby and hallway, although grand, seem miniscule in comparison to the full room installation at the Mandarin. Designed for grand events, like weddings, the room is completely covered in the roman shade fanning created by Chambless. The experience is fully immersive, and is complete with a surround sound of suspenseful music, and the smell of ylang ylang. Among all the various petal-like decor is a single, large mirror, giving the illusion that the room continuus. “I installed this mirror, because I want you to be able to see yourself in this new world”, says Chambless.

Chambless, a busy woman, and a budding artist, leaves for another meeting. Far around the corner someone is in a pocket of the room, on their laptop “I’ve been using this space to work, in the last week or so I’ve been staying at the Mandarin. I love it because it feels like I’m escaping. I’m undisturbed in a beautiful place that feels like it’s for me. That’s basically everyone’s dream”, says the anonymous resident.

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