My artwork is inspired by the traditional art and culture of Northwest Coast Native Americans, specifically, those from the region between Yakutat Bay, Alaska and northern Vancouver Island, British Columbia. I became interested in this art form while a graduate student at the University of Washington in Seattle. Visits to the Burke Museum at the University of Washington, to the University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology, and more recently to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago solidified my interest.
Skillful use of form lines can convey a sense of motion and give the image a dynamic quality.
Although the traditional palette was limited to two or three colors and no attempt was made to convey perspective or background landscape features, the variety of compositions achievable within those constraints is extensive. The degree of realism of the art can range from generally recognizable to near total abstraction, especially where parts of the composition are arranged to completely fill a given space. Accentuation of a few characteristics of a depicted subject is also a characteristic of the art and allows identification of the subject animal even when portrayed in relatively abstract manner.
I claim no Native American ancestry and do not claim that my work is “Native American art”. My work should not be assumed to duplicate exactly the form and style of the art which inspired it. In any case, differences between traditional and current day Native American art of that region can be substantial. The appeal of the traditional art of Northwest Coast Native Americans is for me that while it is in some respects limiting, it is unique and offers many opportunities and challenges in creating balanced, visually pleasing forms. My goal is to meet these challenges, to explore the limits of the art, and to promote awareness and appreciation of this unique art form.
Charles has been a Lemon Street Gallery member since 2019.