Friday, December 9, 2011

Tall in the Saddle

I'm not sure when it happened, sometime after I moved here five years ago. At the time I didn't pay any attention to it, I was meeting lots of new people and there was a lot to do and a lot had to be done, so I probably file it under “Things I need to remember” and went off to the next thing I had to remember.

A year and a half later I started volunteering at the Coos Art Museum and the same darned thing happened, I had lots to remember, met lots of new people and once again filed it under “Things I need to remember.”

I guess with lives so busy and technology moving so fast that's the easy thing to do, put things off until there is time to deal with them and then one day your realize that you are completely out of time and you still haven't dealt with it.

But I don't want that to happen so I'll take a moment to mention Charles of Charleston.

Now in Coos Bay and North Bend meeting an artist isn't a hard thing to do. There are a bunch of them and they are friendly, well spoken, nice people who are outgoing and have a lot to say about a lot of things and if you'll just hold still for a minute they'll tell you all about it.

That's probably why Charles gets such short shrift, he's always there, has plenty to say, says it well, knows what he is talking about, has plenty of humor to share around and goes out of his way to be cordial to new guys. And that is a guaranteed way to get overlooked.

See we tend to pay attention to the squeaking wheel. If it doesn’t annoy the fire out of us it gets ignored. Just try to ignore a cat or dog or teenager with something on their mind and see how much peace on earth there is. Why the little spat over in the Middle East is nothing. You let a pet or teen get shuffled aside and you will have enough angst for a whole season of Desperate Homeowners.

So here we are getting ready to enjoy a show of the art work of our Charleston artists and what happens? Charles gets pushed to the back burner again.

How does that happen? Is there anyone more closely associated with Charleston than Charles? No there isn't, but there are guys with much bigger, well deserved reputations and it is hard not to shine the spotlight on them

Dutch Mostert is one of those guys. Now Dutch is a nice guy and very gifted and he does a lot for the art community and creates more new art in any given year than five or six of the Kardashians, which is just about how many Kardashian's it takes to make an ounce of brains, so we know that Dutch must have more than an ounce of brains. And he demonstrates it all of the time with maritime art of the highest quality and colors so subtle that even the most discriminating pallets can't match them. How can anyone take the spotlight from Dutch?

Not all of the Charleston crowd paints. Oh yes, they are the center and heart of the plein air group and do the hardest thing of all, they get out in the wild Pacific wind and rain and cold and paint. Most of us find it hard to paint when the rain is pelting against the window pane much less falling on our heads and yet they do it week in and week out.

If you go to the museum tonight and I hope that you will you'll see what some of the others do with their time. The Wood Invitational isn't about some dead guy named wood, it is all about wood, real honest to God wood, that beautiful, natural, original art supply which did not come from Michaels.

Rick Fox does his thing with wood and the results are as you will see spectacular. Just look at the light playing off those rich yellows and tans and try to think about anything else.

Which brings us back to Charles. Charles manages to do it to himself as much as anyone else. You see he's been here forever, and he's usually first in line to greet a newcomer or hold out a hand, he attends all of the openings and volunteers his time, he does so much and is seen so often that it is easy to let your eye rush past him before you realize how much a part of this community he is.

I'm guilty too. Like I said I had barely landed in Coos Bay before I met Charles. I come from Texas and know a character when I see one. Every town has at least one and we don't hide our characters behind rocks like those prim and proper folks up in New England. Every one knows there's a local character and its only a matter of time before you meet him. Usually Texas characters go into show biz and become like Z Z Top or Willie, so well known that the nation claims them. Every now and then one of them runs for office and we all fervently hope that the rest of the country forgives us and remembers that for every Bush and Perry we've thrown in a Kinky Freeman or Jim Hightower.

But in an art community our characters, no statesmen, (I wouldn't dare use the ordinary elder modifier before such a young man's name), fill a most important place. They remember that artists are people first and artists second and that all too often is forgotten while standing in front of an easel.

It is so easy to let a personality like Charles has be the only thing that you notice, but did you know that he is a brilliant artist too?

I first noticed at the original AWE, (Artists and Writers Exchange), after of course I found all of MY OWN WORK, being a shy and self-less artist. Charles had done a delicate little gem of an Asian style watercolor, beautiful and graceful, filled with the strength and balance haiku writers strive for and then in amazing counterpoint so vivid and alive that you had to check to see if your socks were getting wet. No that's all I'll say about it. You can talk to Ava and see if she'll show you the piece of better still ask Charles.

Since that time I've made it a point to seek out Charles' work. Sure I don't love every piece, but I find most of them engaging and charming. I am not a big fan of the slash and dab style that plein air painters have to use, but then that's probably why I am not out there with them most Mondays, okay, not being a painter might have something to do with it, but that's just petty.

The good news is all of the great Friday night programs are re-runs so you have no excuse not to get off the couch, put on your meeting clothes and head for the Coos Art Museum. You'll find the work on display well worth the effort, the crowd congenial and the experience fulfilling. You might even get a chance to talk to Charles.

He'll be the white head in the center of a crowd, nodding and talking and even occasionally taking a breath. Jump in when he does, it might be an hour before then next one and you don't want to miss a whole hour, do you?

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