Paul Robey, the artist otherwise known as Arte Chambers, is cool as ice, at least by my standards. As an artist, Chambers’ work is intended to be thought provoking, using art to comment on the world around him in a visceral and aesthetically exciting way. Transitioning from music to art, Chambers brought with him a desire to blend multi-disciplinary styles into his work, which in the context of his art lends a grittiness that feels earned and organic; there is a poetry here that transcends the canvas and sings to your soul. We caught up with Chambers in preparation for the Arte Mixer, a multi-media event that he’s hosting this week, to ask him about printmaking, the subjectivity of artistic expression, and speeder bike safety!
Never Nervous: Before we get going, tell us a little about yourself. What’s your background? How’d you get into the arts?
AC: My name is Paul Robey and I use the pseudonym Arte Chambers for my art practice. I’m a Louisville native and have been into art type stuff most of my life. I’ve played bass in a few bands around town and thrown a few shows. I started part time at Indiana University Southeast in 2012 for fine arts after feeling burned out in the IT field. I’m also a dad, trying to navigate public life with parenting a pre teen.
NN: What got you into printmaking?
AC: At IUS, the head of the Printmaking program, Susanna Crum, was very supportive and knowledgeable from the start. I felt that I would gain the most knowledge working with her. Printmaking I found as I began taking more and more courses, would allow me to make fantastic fine art in multiple – which would allow me to make artwork that is more accessible to the people.
NN: How would you describe your craft to folks who may not be in the know? How would you describe printmaking to someone who might not be that aware of what it is?
AC: Printmaking is fine art in multiples. It includes a number of different techniques including relief, intaglio, screen printing, letterpress, lithography and others. It’s a copy art form – that allows you to work from original source material or from something that’s already been created.
NN: How does your art “promote social awareness and community collaboration?” Given the efforts behind your work engage the audience, how important is it for whatever message that you had in mind to be received by the audience?
“My art focuses on mixing elements together that don’t normally coexist. With music I would blend genres and styles, with visual art I blend cultural folklore and identity. The goal behind these blends is to create a common ground for people to appreciate one another.”
AC: My art focuses on mixing elements together that don’t normally coexist. With music I would blend genres and styles, with visual art I blend cultural folklore and identity. The goal behind these blends is to create a common ground for people to appreciate one another. The goal for me is to bring folks together in a way that highlights their gifts and talents. I hope that I’m able to create spaces that allow us all to see some common ground while respecting our differences.
For me and most of the art I create, the message is paramount, however, I’ve learned not to hold others to that standard. I feel like every artist has a platform that makes their voice louder than most regular folks. There is a certain power that comes with that amplified voice and I think it’s important that artist use it with purpose.
NN: What inspires your art in general? Does it come from an aesthetic or conceptual place?
AC: In general, my inspiration comes from cultural criticisms, history, folklore and the people around me. I like to take elements from the past and overlay them on to modern society. A lot of my inspiration comes from social media, conversations with friends or institutions and where those things parallel historical events or folklore.
I believe concepts are truths. Truth can be the ugliest thing, because you can’t just say ‘oh that’s just make believe’ – but the truth is an important catalyst for change. Aesthetics on the other hand – are for dressing things up – making them ready for mass appeal. As for me, I flow between the two ideas fluidly.
NN: What’s going on at the Arte Mixer? What brought that together? Was it difficult to organize?
AC: Arte Mixer is a weekend of group art shows and mixed genre performances. Arte Mixer started as an idea to create an accessible and inclusive platform for artistic expression through collaborations. I wanted to showcase the artwork of myself and my peers in a fun and inclusive way. It really came together once I started talking with some of the artists involved. It has been difficult to organize, I started with a million ideas and got it down to the core concepts that you’ll get to see this weekend. Visual artists include Sparrow, Jackson Taylor, Stu Art, Katherine Knudsen, Savannah Ferrel, Pez Jones, Kevlen Goodner, Albert Jones, Bethany Barton, Tony Hitch, and David Spencer Pierce.
“The truth is an important catalyst for change.”
NN: What does experimental mean in the context of this mixer? Is it music or avant garde art?
AC: It’s music; sounds that are not bound to time, tonality or genre. It’s experimental because it combines traditional and electronic instrumentation with poetry and performance art. Yes, I’d say avant garde. Allison Cross from Billy Goat Strut Review has put together a band for Arte Mixer that include a synth played by Jei Jei, digital sampler played by Allison and vocals by JD Green, Morgan Younge, and Hannah Drake. Hairbrushing group is an experimental band from Louisville that include cello, trumpet and synth. RyeLee Short has put together an ensemble with Josh Johnson and Tyler Back and poet Robin G
NN: How does burlesque and hip-hop fit in? What is the community/family day about?
AC: Burlesque and Hip Hop just seemed like a fun idea that you don’t see too often. I think it speaks to my sense of aesthetics. I am very fortunate to have such great performers for this event. Rappers include RMw2LLz, Trap King Kai, Trishes from LA, Peter Wesley, DJ Khüdó Soul and Taj and Tito from Our Dope Dream. The burlesque dancers include Artemisia, Trashley Whiskers, Lumen, Dessi Dis’Asster, and Venus Pearl.
The Community and Family day has unfortunately been postponed. I wasn’t able to get a team together in enough time to do it right.
NN: Ultimately, what do you hope people take away from this event?
AC: Really I’m hoping that the artists involved continue to find ways to work together after the event is over and that it’s a memorable event for those watching.
NN: How do you balance art and making a living? Or do you make a living at art? Is it a good or a bad thing to get paid for what you love? I mean, you might not always love it quite so much otherwise.
AC: It’s a struggle. I have a decent day job but also school, art-making and fatherhood. I cram a lot of stuff in during the evenings and weekends. My advice to any artists in a situation where their basic needs are covered, i.e. people who live with their parents or supportive partner, is to create as much as possible and get the administrative stuff together. For everyone else work hard and get help from your friends.
“I probably would ride a Speeder Bike to work”
NN: Would you ride a Speeder Bike to work? If so, would you obey the traffic laws? If not, why?
AC: I probably would ride a Speeder Bike to work, but I would have to obey the traffic laws because I got too much to live for to be risking my life lol.
NN: Have you watched, eaten, or drank anything worth talking about lately? What’s got you excited outside of the usual?
AC: I ate a Queen of Sheba the other day. That place is wild.
NN: What music do you listen to when you work, local or otherwise?
AC: I’m one of those LoFi dudes at work, but in the studio while I create I like to listen to Supa Bwe, Earthgang, Sza, Kendrick, Paak, Daniel Caesar, Boogie, Jamila Woods, The Internet, Masego, XXyyXX, Kaytranada, H.E.R., A$AP Rocky and Sevdaliza. But I need some new tune because I’ve listened to all these to death.