Guess who I got to meet?
Can you guess? Can you?
Charly-freakin'-Hamilton, that's who!
For those of you who don't know, I credit Charly with really getting me interested in the local art scene. It was back in the 90's, and I was in high school. My art teacher was the really cool sort who would take us to art exhibits all around town, and they were all pretty nice, but kind of bland. There were a lot of paintings of West Virginia landscapes, like the Grist Mill or barns in the snow. There were a lot of P. Buckley Moss and William Goebel pieces which I appreciate more now, but they didn't really move me then. There were a lot of pretty things that looked like they would be at home hanging over someone's sofa or in a doctor's office waiting room...
... and then there was something like this:
(not this particular painting... but something like it. This is also his work.)
I must have stood there in the Cultural Center for an hour, just staring at that one piece. I remember my Mom checking out the entire exhibit, then coming back to find me at the same spot. His work is like that -- you can look at it for hours and find new things to enjoy anywhere you look. (In fact, his art sort of reminded me of the art of an up-and-coming artist named Keith Haring that I had read about not too long before this exhibit.) I think it was at that point that I realized that art could be so much more than just a pretty picture on a wall somewhere that you really don't interact with, much. Art can have a message. Art can stand on its own. Art can make a person stop in their tracks. Art doesn't have to match the decor. Art can be an experience that goes so much beyond canvas and paint, or carved wood, stone, or bronze. Art transcends language, or culture, or religion, or sexual orientation, or economic status, or age, or even time. Art is one of the last truly free forms of communication we have. It's not sponsored by major corporations and really can't be censored (it just finds new ways to speak.) It can't be taxed, or DRM'd to death, or squirreled away for only the most elite. Art is for everyone.
That's when I decided I wanted to be an artist. My art teacher had been pushing me to enter art exhibits, and I had won some pretty hefty prizes in them, but I never felt the need to make art, other than for my own enjoyment. But after that day, I knew that I wanted to be an artist and that art would allow me to say things I could never communicate, otherwise.
Fast forward to yesterday. The always-awesome Amy Williams had invited me to help string cranes for her Peace Crane Project at Taylor Books. She and Charly had collaborated on a Frida Kahlo-Diego Rivera portrait piece and so he would be there, too, to hang it. She introduced me to him, he shook my hand and thanked me for mentioning him in a review I wrote last month (and told me not to be upset about the backlash it got) and I probably looked like a big noob because I felt like such a fangirl. I thanked him for his kind words, and talked briefly with him about his work and the local art scene, and spent the next hour stringing cranes with him, Amy, and some other Patriots for Peace friends. It was a fun evening, cut short by a really nasty winter storm that caused me to rush out of there to try to make it home before it really got bad. (I didn't make it -- it hit while I was there and it took me two hours to get home. It wasn't too bad, though -- I kind of enjoyed driving and listening to old podcasts of NPR's This American Life.)
I am so glad I've had the opportunity to meet Charly, Amy, and some other area artists. Charleston has a really cool art scene for such a small city, but part of what makes it so interesting are the artists, themselves. They're all (well, mostly... *hehe*) such cool people! And many of them are really into providing art experiences that involve the public -- much more than stuffy art exhibits with wine and cheese receptions. I hope to be part of the artist crowd, too, someday, but until then, it's great fun just to enjoy it as it happens.