Dominic Chambers USA, b. 1993


Dominic Chambers creates large-scale paintings that challenge existing depictions of Black bodies in mainstream American culture. He is interested in creating images that show members of his community at rest, at leisure, participating in intellectual pursuits, and engaging with escapism. “Too long has history seen and located Black folks as hyperactive," Chambers says. "Constantly fighting and working to circumvent the vulnerability that has been forced upon them. I want to remind them that it’s okay to rest and to experience stillness.”


Chambers grew up in St. Louis, MO, in a family that was intermittently homeless. In school, he says, he was only taught to read about “the greatness of white people.” His first exposure to the bigger world of literature, art, and culture was on visits to the library while waiting for the homeless shelter to open. After hearing how an acquaintance leveraged artistic abilities to forge a path into Yale, Chambers, an admitted competitive spirit, embarked on a personal mission to achieve the same goal. After earning his BFA from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD), Milwaukee, WI, he earned his MFA from Yale University in 2019. Chambers works large, on surfaces that are often five or six feet tall, because he wants viewers to interact with his works on a human scale.


“It offers the viewer the opportunity to locate themselves within the painting,” Chambers says. “There is no need to enlarge or minimize yourself to engage with the image. I find this idea that you can also be immersed within the picture plane fascinating, because the figure who inhabits that space could be you, or someone you know, and it will also be relative to your body. That’s the kind of relationship that interests me.”


Since graduating from Yale, Chambers has been working on three main series of works, titled Wash Paintings, Primary Magic, and After Albers. All three engage a magical realist approach to showing Black bodies at leisure in dreamlike, imaginary spaces. Monochromatic color schemes add a surreal atmosphere to the imagery.


The images also deal with the issue of erasure, particularly the idea that Black males are socialized to eliminate or ignore certain aspects of their masculinity, such as vulnerability, intellectualism, leisure, and imagination.


“As a Black male growing up in an impoverished neighborhood, you aren’t taught to embrace your imagination like you are taught to become strong and endure the world,” says Chambers, “because the world we’re a part of has very real consequences.


Exhibitions of Chambers work include Realms of Refuge, Kavi Gupta, Chicago, IL (July 2021); Dominic Chambers: Like the Shape of Clouds on Water, August Wilson Center of African American Art, Pittsburgh, PA; Dominic Chambers: Life is Elsewhere, Luce Gallery, Turin, Italy; Abstractions of Black Citizenship: Art from St. Louis, Seattle University, Seattle, WA; Painting Is Its Own Country, Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Art, Charlotte, NC; Again, Always, Green Hall Gallery, Yale University, New Haven, CT; MIAD Juried Exhibition, MIAD Contemporary Gallery, Milwaukee, WI; Synchronicity, Roberts Projects, Los Angeles, CA and Voices, Studio 525, New York, NY.