Biography

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Cliff Chambliss, III

Founder + Head Artist

Cliff Chambliss, III is a multidisciplinary visual artist. Through the mediums of photography, fiber/textile, glass, and archival material, he explores the obscure narratives of the African diaspora. His works employ both direct messaging and nuanced imagery to foster a dialogue around the history of Black social inequities. Working at The Library of Congress and a native of Richmond, VA, the former seat of the Southern Confederacy and also setting to one of the nation’s most thriving hubs of Black commerce, his practice is informed by place and geospatial data. 

 

One of the focal points of Cliff’s works is nature, drawing a thread with Black culture and offering counternarratives to stereotypes. For five years, he served as an Assistant Scoutmaster of a Boy Scout troop in Washington. D.C. where he made photographs of many of the Scout undertakings to show an alternative side to American themes, outdoorsmanship, and patriotism. Another focal point of his practice is social justice, creating bold and challenging art installations that target cultural and political institutions – using art as activism. He has worked with the world-renowned arts activist group, Guerrilla Girls, and the Creative Justice Institute (sponsored by the Ford Foundation). During the racial reckoning summer of 2020, Cliff engaged with performance art at the Robert E. Lee monument in Richmond where he incorporated a sign that read “RUMORS OF WAR WASN’T A RUMOR,” offering commentary on the recently unveiled Rumors of War statue by Kehinde Wiley. He performed and protested shirtless, allowing his Black skin to complement the work and represent a host of meanings. That work was subsequently acquired in July 2020 by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

 

Artists and individuals who inspire his practice are Gordon Parks, Howardena Pindell, Pete Souza, and Frederick Douglass. Parks’ storytelling and journaling of Black life in the mid-20th century is his point of reference for documenting Black life in the 21st century. Pindell's work informs Cliff’s use of textiles, among other things, in mixed-media art. Souza’s masterful documentation of the two terms that President Obama served in the White House, along with Souza’s current voice and images on social media, inspire Cliff’s burgeoning digital archive. Most importantly, although not a photographer, Frederick Douglass’s intentionality in using photography to construct counternarratives about African-Americans influences his theoretical approach. Often referred to as the most photographed person (of any race) in the 19th century, Douglass set the standard for what photography can do, a legacy that Cliff’s body of work pays homage to in volume and objective.

 

Cliff is based in Richmond, VA and New Haven, CT, pursuing a Master of Divinity degree from Yale Divinity School with a focus in the visual arts, material cultures, and environmental justice. He is a dual-graduate of Hampton University (B.S. and M.B.A.) and received his J.D. from the Columbus School of Law at The Catholic University of America. Cliff is a member of the Kuumba African-American Quilters Guild and the American Glass Guild.