Photo Carl Van Vechten, 1954
Photo Sally Chamberlain
Photo by Kate Simon for Grove Press 1988
a.k.a. Elwyn M Chamberlain, Elwyn Chamberlain, and
Win Chamberlain, and in India as Sombar Giri.
After being sent to the University of Idaho for Officers Training in 1944, Chamberlain was discharged in 1946, but remained in Idaho where he received a Bachelor's Degree in 1949. He then took a Masters Degree in Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin, where he continued to paint and was befriended by the Surrealist painter John Wilde, who arranged his first solo exhibition at the Bresslar Gallery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1951 and a few years later his first New York show in New York at the Edwin Hewitt Gallery at 18 East 69th Street. Throughout the late 1950s and 1960s his realist landscapes, interior scenes and allegorical works were exhibited throughout the United States and in Europe. Although his work tended to become more abstract by the early 60s, he had a major exhibition of realistic nude portraits at the Fischbach Gallery, New York, in 1965. The portraits were of literary and artistic figures of the time. One of the most famous of these is "The Poets Dressed and Undressed" - two panels portraying Joe Brainard, Frank O'Hara, Joe Le Sueur and Frank Lima. The exhibition also included nude portraits of Renata Ponsold, later Mrs Robert Motherwell, poet Diane de Prima, painter Ruth Kligman, friend of Jackson Pollack and Bill DeKooning, and a double portrait of Allen Ginsberg and his friend Peter Orlovsky. Ginsberg wrote the text of the announcement sent out by the gallery, "Chamberlain's Nakeds" in which he equated Chamberlain's nudes with the ecstatic poetry of William Blake. The following year Chamberlain produced another show of nudes entitled "Homage to Thomas Eakins" with an introduction by Colin Clark, son of Sir Kenneth Clark, author of "The Nude in Art".
As the sixties ebbed, Chamberlain became increasingly interested in the so called Underground movements in theater and film. In 1967 he produced Charles Ludlam's first play, "Conquest of the Universe" ( When Queens Collide) directed by John Vaccaro and starring several actors who later became habitués of Andy Warhol's Factory, including Chamberlain's old friend the poet and actor Taylor Mead, and Ultra Violet. The following year late in 1968 Chamberlain began work on the film, "Brand X" which he wrote, produced and directed. The film, a subversive satire on American television programing, included major performances by Taylor Mead, Sally Kirkland, Frank Cavestani and Tally Brown and featured special appearances by Abbie Hoffman, Sam Shepard, Candy Darling, John Long of the Living Theater, and Jimi Hendrix. Opening to large crowds in New York, Los Angeles and Washington D.C. in May 1970 it was soon scuttled and closed down by a conspiracy which kept it locked up in the Chemical Bank of New York for 38 years.
In 2009 it was suddenly returned to Chamberlain and re-opened on April 9th, 2011 at the New Museum in New York, accompanied by a front page article in the New York Times Art section; an article by Steven Watson in the summer issue of Art Forum and an article by Katie Kitamura in Frieze Magazine in Britain. Since then Brand X has been screened at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, Harvard University in Cambridge Massachusetts, The Copenhagen Film Festival in Denmark, and has been invited to be shown at the Berlin Film Festival Forum in February 2012. For more information about Brand X see both www.kadmospublishing.com/about.html and www.brandxmovie.com
In 1965 Chamberlain, married Sally Stokes and in 1968 the couple had two children, fraternal twins, Sara Ninigret Stokes Chamberlain and Samuel Wyandance Stokes Chamberlain. Disheartened by the treatment his film had received in America despite rave reviews, in late 1969 Chamberlain burned many of his paintings, abandoned his studio, and journeyed to India where he and his wife and children stayed with their longtime friend Robert Fraser in Madras. When they became acclimatized the family set out to explore the country and stayed for five years. First sitting with a famous south Indian Guru, Nataraja of Kerala, in an old ruin they rented in Bangalore originally built by Sir Arthur Wellesley in about 1790; and later in the village of Kollur in the Western Ghats of Karnataka. When Nataraja died, they left the south, traveled to the foothills of the Himalayas where they sat with a well-known Tantric yogi outside the village of Dhapla on the edge of the Jim Corbett National Tiger Preserve.
In 1975 owing to an state of emergency declared by the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the expulsion of all foreigners, the family left India for California where they bought land in a remote area of Mendocino County, lived in an old army tent and finally built a large shack by hand, grew their own food and home schooled their children until they could return to India. During this time Chamberlain finished the book he began in India, a novel called Fire Gate, renamed "Gates of Fire" by Barney Rosset of Grove Press when he published it in 1978; published in Britain by William Collins; in Spain as, " El Guru," by Martinez Roca; in Holland as " Door een poort Van Vuur" and in Germany as "Fruer Sprunger". A second book of this time, originally published by North Atlantic Press in Berkley, since re edited by the author and renamed "A Dog's Life", is now available with a free PDF download on the Internet at
In 1983 the Chamberlains were able to return to India where the Twins were admitted to a preparatory school while their parents lived nearby and continued their explorations and studies. Wynn wrote his third novel, set in India at the time of Mrs. Gandhi's Assassination and also published by Grove Press in 1989 under the title "Then Spoke the Thunder" and by Robert Laffont in Paris as "La Nuit Tomba sur Kotagarh."
After finishing college in America both Sam and Sara Chamberlain moved to England where they became residents and their parents settled down in Morocco where Wynn finished his fourth book, "Paradise", a novel set in Marrakech, now read in over 88 countries, free PDF download at www.kadmospublishing.com and Sally has been hard at work on her Memoirs, parts of which have been published by Hamish Hamilton in their Internet Literary magazine, Five Dials. In 2012 they will celebrate their fiftieth anniversary of life together.