John Chamberlain Quotations

When I took seven years off from working with painted metal I did three kinds of sculpture: I squeezed and tied foam rubber; I melted plexiglass; I wadded aluminum foil.

I deal with new material as I see fit in terms of my decision making, which has to do primarily with sexual and intuitive thinking. I am told, to a lesser degree, what to do by the material itself. As an artist I am aware that I have to know when to stop, but, the deciding factor has more to do with what I present myself with; that is, with the position I get into to deal with new material.

Sexuality is the childlikeness in me and the articulation comes through my intuition. My sense of nature is my ability to make decisions based on the sexual and intuitive aspects of my psyche. The intellectual and emotional aspects have little role in my work.

I’ve done pieces, for example, on which were piled as many as 40 to 50 parts, but none was totally interlocked, or welded. That is the sexual fit. Intuition, however, may have made me remove some, or many, of the parts.

Intuition will indicate when something is not acceptable, even though it might work. That it works is not necessarily enough. It can be acceptable, but something more is needed. The fine line is that it is either junk, or art materials, or, it is a piece of work.

With my sculpture the sexual decision comes in the fitting of the parts. The completion of a piece is intuitive and, on looking at a finished piece, it will have a stance that represents my attitude regarding it. My sculpture is not calculated to do anything other than what it looks like it’s doing.

The definition of sculpture for me is stance and attitude. All sculpture takes a stance. If it dances on one foot, or, even if it dances while sitting down, it has a light-on-its-feet stance. What I do doesn’t look like heavy car parts laid up against a wall.

An artist makes a spiritual evaluation of the essence within a thing and then he gets it out; that is the outer appearance of the inner essence and, it is the point. Sophisticated materials and complex systems are not necessarily good media for art because art is a simple thing and, the more simple the medium, the less you have to get over to get to the fact of the piece.

In what I do, constant hard work is not necessary; my drive is based on laziness. If I were zippy and worked hard all the time, what I’d create would be of little value; I’d make too many mistakes. I don’t mind admitting that I’m lazy because laziness is, for me, an attribute.

Being an artist is an initiative occupation. There is no demand on me to have anyone else agree that it is good work, or, whether they like it or not. I try to make the object the liaison to everyone who comes and looks at it. I must unleash something that they’ve probably locked up. Then, occasionally, I have to explain it to them and, all of a sudden, they have the right to an opinion—to counteract—and to say, “That doesn’t work.”

Art—regardless of when it was made—is one of the few things in the world that is never boring, and, it costs nothing. You don’t have to own it, you just have to perceive it; art is free. As an artist I give away more than I would if I ran a beauty shop.

John Chamberlain, 1982