Erin Chamberlin: Exploring Bloody Frontiers in Art

Some would say that artists are explorers.  They are explorers of concepts and realms that are fascinating, disturbing and even horrific.  In March of 2015, senior art education major, Erin Chamberlin opened a solo exhibition in the TCNJ Art Gallery titled “Tell Me I’m Pretty.”  Her exhibition explored the juxtaposition of feminine beauty and violent danger.

Chamberlin’s “Tell Me I’m Pretty” is described as “an exploration of the patriarchal notion of women being inherently dangerous and/ or deadly.”  

“The concept itself is something I’ve been playing around with.  We expect men to be more aggressive people.  I wanted to play with femininity, aggression and dangerousness.”

Graphic style drawings portray striking scenes of feminine figures in black and white soaking and dripping in blood.  Chamberlin’s favorite medium to work in is pen and ink.  “I love how graphic it is.  It’s very bold and in-your-face.”

In addition to three drawings, Chamberlin composed a live-action video, overlapping the image of a woman with blood pouring from her mouth and hand-drawn animation.  “The centerpiece has always been the video.  It was a piece I did for a Drawing III class. I just wanted to play around with subliminal images playing off of women who take revenge and are dangerous.”

The effect is dark, startling and thought provoking.

Chamberlin drew inspiration for her solo exhibition from female serial killers; a territory she feels is not explored often.  Chamberlin’s muse was the 14th century serial killer Elizabeth Báthory, a duchess who would bathe in the blood of her victims, engaging in violence in the name of beauty and everlasting life.

For Chamberlin, her love for art began when she was young.  “I’ve always really liked crafting things and making things.  As a kid, I always went to the library and picked out ‘how-to’ books.  I didn’t get seriously into art until middle school.  Freshman year of high school I decided to be an art teacher.”

Chamberlin also gets a lot of her inspiration from the horror genre in both art and film.  “I like things that are creepy and disturbing.  The reaction to it is a little more interesting.  I like getting a shocking reaction from people.”

“Tell Me I’m Pretty” is her most scandalous exhibition to date, but Chamberlin looks to explore new themes in her art going forward.  “I’m not really the kind of artist that stays on a particular style or particular theme for too long.”

Reflecting on her most recent exhibition experience, Chamberlin says, “It’s so exciting.  It was so fun too.  This was the first time where it was my show.  I could do whatever the heck I wanted.  I love having all that control.”