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Tentacled lamps, feathered vases, and shiny ray guns?

Artist Evan Chambers must be back in town

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- CREATURE FROM THE DEEP: -  - PHOTO COURTESY OF EVAN CHAMBERS
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF EVAN CHAMBERS
  • CREATURE FROM THE DEEP:

Perhaps it’s something in the Pasadena water, but it seems that Evan Chambers’ functional art pieces have sprouted tentacles. And chicken legs. And bat wings.

The artist cites Bay Area sculptor Bella Feldman among his influences, and indeed, there’s an echo of Feldman’s “War Toys” series in his retro-futuristic ray guns, and his appendage-sprouting lamps boast the same goofy ineffectuality the Bay Area artist loves to conjure: the delicate supporting the clunky. It’s only fitting that Chambers, who presents his glass- and metalwork this month at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art, arrives on the heels of Feldman’s own “Reach” and “RPM” series.

Chambers seems to embody several artists. On the one hand, he’s a glassblower: His studio, Pavonine Glass in Atascadero, is named for the trademark peacock feather pattern he creates on his vases and lamps.

“It is a technique that has always intrigued me because of Art Nouveau glass, and was the reason I wanted to make glass in the first place,” he said.

- SHINY TOY GUNS: -  - PHOTO COURTESY OF EVAN CHAMBERS
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF EVAN CHAMBERS
  • SHINY TOY GUNS:

But while glass is a defining element of his work, he began his career as a metal sculptor. His mother, a silversmith who taught at Pasadena City College, showed Chambers how to “cut, rivet, solder, and forge silver, starting when I was 12,” he said. He began attending Cal Poly in 1999, where a metalsmithing class taught by Chrissa Hewett showed him “how to apply my small scale jewelry-smithing skills to larger-scale copper pieces,” he said. “I fell in love with the material immediately.”

Glass- and metalworking is an expensive hobby, especially for a college student. Having heard that Chambers once built a tree house on the Cal Poly campus to offset his living costs, I asked him about it in an e-mail, and he had this
to say:

- GREEN PAVONINE :  Evan Chambers’s current art show displays his largest body of work to date, combining metal and glass. Pictured is a classic Evan Chambers feathered vase. -  - PHOTO COURTESY OF EVAN CHAMBERS
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF EVAN CHAMBERS
  • GREEN PAVONINE : Evan Chambers’s current art show displays his largest body of work to date, combining metal and glass. Pictured is a classic Evan Chambers feathered vase.

“I did build a tree house on campus and lived in it for two years. That seems like such a long time ago now. It is still there and has had over 15 different people living in it full-time over the past seven years.  The location is still super top secret. I built it with my friends. Ninety percent of the materials for it were locally stolen from bad companies and lame individuals like Thomas Kinkade. The lumber was stolen strictly from new housing developments that are clogging the Los Osos Valley. The only things I bought for it were screws and some chains. The house hangs in the tree and isn’t attached to it with nails. When the wind blows, it swings back and forth and allows the tree to move around it. I was working and going to school at the time when I built it and saved enough money to buy my first glass studio in Atascadero. After I moved out of the tree house, I moved into my studio.”

I had also asked in the e-mail if the tree house has a bathroom, but he didn’t say, and I wasn’t about to ask again.

The anti-consumerist spirit of Chambers the tree-dweller is reflected in his economical habits to this day: “I save all my money to buy more raw glass, copper, or bronze and to experiment with new processes.”

- OCTO-PISTOL: -  - PHOTO COURTESY OF EVAN CHAMBERS
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF EVAN CHAMBERS
  • OCTO-PISTOL:

And he still uses found objects, though he incorporates them more indirectly into his art.

“I take molds off of different objects in order to cast them into bronze or silver,” he said. “This way I can find objects made in any material and convert their form into a material that is cohesive with the rest of the materials I am working with.”

Objects include opium poppies, plastic squirt guns, real guns, and dead birds he finds—the
legs from which he creates molds for his mutant footed lamps.

Most of Chambers’s pieces double as household items. Asked if utility detracted from the prestige of fine art, the artist expressed a divided opinion, saying it depends on the medium.

“I desire to make my metalwork less functional than I currently do and make my glasswork even more functional,” he said.

- EYE TO EYE: -  - PHOTO COURTESY OF EVAN CHAMBERS
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF EVAN CHAMBERS
  • EYE TO EYE:

Chambers took his first glassblowing class from George Jercich at the same time he took his metalsmithing class, and he’s been wanting to wed the two disciplines ever since. His current show reveals his largest body of work so far that combines his glass- and metalwork.

Though an accomplished artist, he remains modest about his efforts in this regard.

“I feel that I am just beginning to figure out how to do this,” he said.

Chambers’ work already takes us from the bottom of the sea to the future and back—what uncharted territory awaits?

Arts Editor Anna Weltner once used a squid in a holdup. Contact her at aweltner@newtimesslo.com.

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